American

 

My uncomfortable truth
prompted you to
ask me if I
consider myself American
and what that title means.

Oh, I’m American, indeed
I’ve considered many things as I’ve tussled to undo
The inculcation meant to make me a
Patriot
On the road to realization that America means something different to me than it means to you.

It means the telling of my history in this land starts at bondage while yours starts at courage
So your ancestors could brag about coming over
While mine wailed of overcoming

It means you dabble in my history as an exercise of periodic contemplation
But it’s compulsory for me
to memorize yours on the path to graduation

I have a social security number
But no security
I have a hometown
But no home

You can trace your family name back to your motherland
But I can only track mine back to where my folks were fieldhands

Your ancestors sorted us into colors like laundry
And now that we take pride in our pigmentation
You take pride in claiming that my complexion
Is something you can’t see

It means whatever you do is because you’re you
but whatever I do
Is because
I’m us
You ever carry the weight of a race on your shoulders?
Even once?

It means your heroes are hailed for making a way for my people
Your hero, the Great Emancipator, who proclaimed,
“I am not, nor ever have been, in favor
of bringing about the social and political equality
of the black and white races.”
Your hero, Lincoln, proclaimed
“I am in favor
of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

Some savior…

And because of that when someone who looks like you gets a look, their resume can’t be denied
But when it’s me, you’re quick to question if we’re even qualified
So we pay our black tax, twice as good for half

But nevertheless, we are creators
Of air conditioners and almanacs
3D tech and protocol to chit-chat over the internet
Improved elevators, the traffic light, and the pacemaker
Because we’ve always been pacesetters

But when we do this
And still fight injustice
You say stop complaining
You’ve arrived
You’re officially more like us than
Them

You, pure, standard issued American
Me, on the dark outskirts
Until you deem my worth
Part of me used to appreciate your acceptance
Until I unwashed my brain

It means on days I feel I can touch the stars
Someone tries to convince me I won’t
It means I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t
But I do anyway
Because someone did for me

It means the lies about us have permeated the globe
So when I travel, they grab their children and purses because
they only know the prejudices
they’ve been told

It means we’re always too much and we’re never enough
Malcolm was too radical
Martin was too uppity
Rosa was too defiant
Huey was too dangerous
Kamala is too snarky
Tulsa was too mighty
Colin was too divisive
Angela was too violent and hip hop is too
But anybody who looks like you?
Good, good people

What’s most amazing about grace is who
you’ll withhold it from
but extend it to

This skin’s a blessing and curse cause it don’t crack but it might burst
Under the weight of carefully constructed
Confusion and hate

You think you own my thoughts of my experience?
You think you can build another you from me
Like yet another model minority?
Well, I recognize all this history
And own what it means
And throw off a mask of shame so I don’t suffocate
and build a legacy on my ancestors’ dreams at any rate
And fight for anybody deemed less than
And pursue liberty and help create our happiness, in spite of this country’s sins

So tell me, sir
Considering what your ancestors claimed they came here to do
Is my American
American enough for you?

 

Jasmine N. Cochran
February 2021

 

Jasmine Cochran from China - Read Jasmine's Bio

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