an open letter to the stupid [redacted] about to get [redacted] if they mention “affirmative action” one more [redacted] time
Matthew E. Henry
CONTENT WARNING: RACIAL SLUR
sometimes I miss the daily reminders
that they hadn’t hired “a colored person”
in 40 years. how that bedroom community
of Boston took pride in their pronounced
klan presence. the perks of working
in a building where the vice principal
refused to shake my hand.
sometimes I miss the diversity of rural life:
where the only “others” were also imported
to that summer destination in New Hampshire.
the balance of perpetual autumnal colors, and
students unafraid to openly call me “nigger.”
sometimes I miss being the only Black professor
in a program where I was once the only Black face
on the website for over a decade, wondering if my legacy
will be passed to the lone Brother sitting in my old seat.
but now I work in a suburb which provided
a police escort—for winding miles in my rear-view—
to an interview where I was asked, repeatedly,
if I would remain longer than the other minorities
hired once upon a time.
Matthew E. Henry
“…You put a nigga in Star Wars. / maybe
You need two, / and then, maybe then
We’ll believe You / see Black people
in the future…”
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Common’s clever rhymes
bred online discussions about hollywood
tokenism and progressive post-racialism
amongst the hip-hop intelligentsia.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀while some argued
the count across the entire franchise—
the number of named brothers, no sisters,
who wielded lightsabers and X-8 night snipers
on the screen—Blerd that I am, my first thought
was about the anachronism. that the whole
space opera took place—past tense—
“a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away,”
calling into question the whole conceit.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀but then I considered
the curriculum we teach. the slim books
stacked like hulled bodies in the back
of my classroom—Uncle Tom’s Cabin,
Huckleberry Finn, Things Fall Apart
A Raisin in the Sun, The Bluest Eye, Citizen.
I thought maybe They need to see Us—
We need to see Us—on different ships,
in different positions: captains and pilots
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀instead of cargo.
Matthew E. Henry (MEH) is the author of Teaching While Black (Main Street Rag), Dust and Ashes (Californios Press), the Colored page (Sundress Publications, forthcoming), and editor-in-chief of The Weight Journal. MEH’s an educator who writes poetry and prose about education, race, religion, and burning oppressive systems to the ground.
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