Lighten Up


This is a spoken word piece I wrote on the first of this month after learning of the death of yet another young man with brown skin at the hands of the police. The following words come from a place of hurt and frustration and anger for the late child's family and friends and for all those who look like me and have dealt with this type of killing. It is heart wrenching and devastating that these types of murders are still taking place. My first thought after reading about Jordan Edwards, the boy who was murdered by a police officer, was, "Not again." When will it end?

You know what I find ironic and twisted? The fact that, according to this news article, Jordan got shot after he and his brothers were leaving a party because they heard gun shots. Wow.

Lighten Up
May 1, 2017

What will it take for me to be safe?
What will it take for me to no longer be a threat in your eyes?
Shall I bite my tongue at your command?
Make my palms open and plain for you to see?
Shall I hold them high in the air?
No. No, that doesn't work. It's been done before.
I know...
I'll strip away my entire self.
Because that's who you're afraid of, right?
You aren't afraid of the weapon I have but the weapon I am.
Or the weapon you see me to be.
You're afraid of the brown, tinted, mocha, chocolate, tanned skin.
This skin that was sun kissed.
This skin that isn't dirty or dangerous or aggressive or wrong
This skin covered body that in a pool of blood, wonders how laying down with arms raised and mouth parted only to calmly announce that I carry no weapon and am not a threat, could have still been "resistant"
"Non- compliant"
What, then? What then must be done? Tell me!
Shall I take a place in the fields, picking and laboring under the hot sun like those before me?
"Stop living in the past", they say.
That's funny, because the past really looks like the present
And that's not the PTSD talking
That's the families of those who sit in agony, torturing themselves with why they didn't stop their loved ones from leaving the house armed and dangerous.
Because that's what got them killed, right?
That's why they were shot leaving a store, that's why they were pulled over and harassed. That's how they managed to die under "mysterious circumstances".
Something about them just "looked like a bad dude".
"Lighten up", they say.
Lighten up what? My complexion?
Wait... Would that help?
If my eyes reflected the sky and my tone were a peach hue, would that make the difference?
Would that be the salvation to what has become certain death?
Or did you mean my mood?
You must've meant my mood, right?
Because certainly the numerous deaths of unarmed and cooperative citizens by some who would swear it was their pride to protect and serve is nothing to get emotional over.
Not when they don't look like you, right?
How can I have empathy for someone portrayed in such a dark light? Especially when that light is something they wear?
How can I look past that?
That would take compassion. Understanding. Love.
Care for another human being.
But that's not what they were, right?
They were black.
Sure, they had brown skin but don't get it twisted, they were black.
And black is so often interchanged with threat and dangerous
Oh, and my favorite, violent
Who knew a color could possess so many human characteristics?
Now don't go gauge your eyes out, blindness never helped anyone.
We all have different shades and that's a beautiful, creative thing

I am not dirty or bad or inherently violent because of the way that I look.
Don't tell me things are not that bad. Don't say they are getting better. Do not tell me that you don't see color.

I have brown skin. And I will not lighten up.

I completely understand that not everyone who reads this will agree with me and that's fine. I am not asking for you to agree, neither am I looking for an argument. I will ask that you pray for peace for those who have been affected by the fatal shooting of Jordan and that you pray for justice. At the end of the day, whether you believe "black lives matter" or "all lives matter", a family in Texas is in mourning and trying to deal with the aftermath of having had their son/brother needlessly taken from them. If you can not empathize simply because of that, then there really is nothing left to be said, is there?

*This photo was copied from a news article concerning the person depicted.


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