The Art of Irrelevance

Today in English class we talked about

Hair and skin and race

But mostly African-Americans

I grit my teeth as I betrayed myself

I did not say black

And so I erased myself

My twist-out was heavy on my head

First success paired with eyeliner

Blacker than me and truer.

I rolled my sleeves back down

As if that would hide my everything

Too late, she’s seen me bite my lip

And she sees through my stubborn straight face

She knows I’m not ok

An “interesting” point was made

About the expectations of assimilation

Straight hair and pale skin

My fingers closed around nothing

Refusing to reach for nothing

Nothing worth having at least

An angry flicker deafens me

From hearing what they say next

African American. African American.

Poor African Americans.

They’re expected to be white

Maybe then they’ll be pretty

But I’m not African American

If I straighten and I lighten

Is there a chance in hell for me?

Maybe in this english class and elsewhere

I just don’t count.


— anonymous

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