“In 2002, having spent more than three years in one residence for the first time in my life, I got called for jury duty. I show up on time, ready to serve. When we get to the voir dire, the lawyer says to me, “I see you’re an astrophysicist. What’s that?” I answer, “Astrophysics is the laws of physics, applied to the universe—the Big Bang, black holes, that sort of thing.” Then he asks, “What do you teach at Princeton?” and I say, “I teach a class on the evaluation of evidence and the relative unreliability of eyewitness testimony.” Five minutes later, I’m on the street.
A few years later, jury duty again. The judge states that the defendant is charged with possession of 1,700 milligrams of cocaine. It was found on his body, he was arrested, and he is now on trial. This time, after the Q&A is over, the judge asks us whether there are any questions we’d like to ask the court, and I say, “Yes, Your Honor. Why did you say he was in possession of 1,700 milligrams of cocaine? That equals 1.7 grams. The ‘thousand’ cancels with the ‘milli-’ and you get 1.7 grams, which is less than the weight of a dime.” Again I’m out on the street.”
powerful Black Science Man
their high school principal
told me I couldn’t teach
poetry with profanity
so I asked my students,
“Raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Holocaust.”
in unison, their arms rose up like poisonous gas
then straightened out like an SS infantry
“Okay. Please put your hands down.
Now raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Rwandan genocide.”
blank stares mixed with curious ignorance
a quivering hand out of the crowd
half-way raised, like a lone survivor
struggling to stand up in Kigali
“Luz, are you sure about that?”
“That’s what I thought.”
they won’t let you hear the truth at school
if that person says “fuck”
can’t even talk about “fuck”
even though a third of your senior class
I can’t teach an 18-year-old girl in a public school
how to use a condom that will save her life
and that of the orphan she will be forced
to give to the foster care system—
“Carlos, how many 13-year-olds do you know that are HIV-positive?”
“Honestly, none. But I do visit a shelter every Monday and talk with
six 12-year-old girls with diagnosed AIDS.”
while 4th graders three blocks away give little boys blowjobs during recess
I met an 11-year-old gang member in the Bronx who carries
a semi-automatic weapon to study hall so he can make it home
and you want me to censor my language
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
your books leave out Emmett Till and Medgar Evers
call themselves “World History” and don’t mention
King Leopold or diamond mines
call themselves “Politics in the Modern World”
and don’t mention Apartheid
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
you wonder why children hide in adult bodies
lie under light-color-eyed contact lenses
learn to fetishize the size of their asses
and simultaneously hate their lips
my students thought Che Guevara was a rapper
from East Harlem
still think my Mumia t-shirt is of Bob Marley
how can literacy not include Phyllis Wheatley?
schools were built in the shadows of ghosts
filtered through incest and grinding teeth
molded under veils of extravagant ritual
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
“Roselyn, how old was she? Cuántos años tuvo tu madre cuando se murió?”
“My mother had 32 years when she died. Ella era bellísima.”
they’ve moved from sterilizing “Boriqua” women
injecting indigenous sisters with Hepatitis B,
now they just kill mothers with silent poison
stain their loyalty and love into veins and suffocate them
Ridwan’s father hung himself
in the box because he thought his son
was ashamed of him
Maureen’s mother gave her
skin lightening cream
the day before she started the 6th grade
she carves straight lines into her
beautiful brown thighs so she can remember
what it feels like to heal
“Carlos, what’s genocide?”
this right here…
Shit, I’m glad a white guy said it. That’s all I was thinking this morning. Just didn’t want to give folks ideas but seems like the world already is.
Need cash? Just be white and shoot any black person. Broad daylight, witnesses present, etc. Doesn’t matter. Shower in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
White affirmative action tbqh
So my facebook friend just posted this pic with this text….
Well, I just witnessed blatant racial injustice with my own eyes. I was getting in my car after exiting a store when a young black man stumbled past me and collapsed against the store wall. When I got out to see if he was okay, a group of white people came rushing over, one of whom was a 20-something white woman who declared in distress, “I ran a red light and hit him with my car!” People immediately assured her that SHE would be okay, meanwhile the young man is writhing in pain on the ground, pants leg torn, tears running down his face. When the police arrived and the young woman explained what happened, it was suggested to her that maybe the light had been yellow and that the young man had “darted out into the street into her path.” I was floored. I said, “But she just SAID she ran the red light and hit him in the intersection!”
Guess what’s happened since Brenda spoke about this on her Facebook? From the Facebook user:
10 hours ago
OPEN LETTER TO FACEBOOK:
To all the hundreds of people who have sent me friend requests because of the post I made about the boy who got his by a car, I would like to apologize to any of you whom I have not responded to. I had absolutely no idea that my post would go viral. Honestly I was just venting to my FB friends about a horrible thing that I witnessed and couldn’t have imagined that it would pick up this kind of momentum.
I responded to the first couple dozen friend requests and was absolutely amazed by the negative responses I was getting from people. So many people sent me friend requests so that they could have the opportunity to criticize my actions person-to-person. A lot of people seemed to have issues with the fact that I didn’t post pictures of the kid, that I didn’t stand up to the cops more, that I didn’t figure out a way to get the boy to tell me his information, even though he couldn’t talk at the time - at least one person even thought I should have lied and told the cops that I HAD witnessed the accident.
Then there are the racists, neo-Nazis, and just plain ******* white people who have accused me of making the whole thing up to get attention, of trying to stir up controversy and other much more bizarre motives. I’ve been called a “race baiter” a “reverse racist” (whatever the hell that’s supposed to be) and other much more inflammatory things that I won’t mention here. I’ve even been threatened.
I’m sure that many of you who have sent me friend requests are not like this. You’re probably good people who were understandably outraged by my story and just wanted to connect with me out of support and solidarity. Because of those initial negative experiences, though, I’ve decided to stop accepting friend requests at this time. I’m sorry, but if you’d seen some of the things people were saying I’m sure you would understand. I will take a moment to address some of the more frequently asked questions that people have had:
#1 Why didn’t I post pictures of the boy on Facebook? First off, the entire incident caught me completely off guard. My main concern before the paramedics arrived was making sure that he was alright. I was down on the ground, holding his hand, telling him that everything would be okay — unlike the others around us who seemed much more concerned with making sure the girl who hit him with her car was okay. The one thing I was NOT doing, however, was standing over this young man taking pictures of him with my cell phone. Shame on anyone who thinks I should have been.
#2 Why didn’t I stand up to the police more in the situation? I tried. But once they realized I wasn’t an actual witness to the accident they completely disregarded what I had to say. Could I have gotten in their faces about it? Um, has anybody been paying attention to what’s been going on in this country right now? Are you really suggesting that I should have taken an AGGRESSIVE STANCE against law enforcement officers right now? Do you value MY life at all??
#3 Why didn’t I get the kid’s name, address, phone #, social security #, fingerprints, mother’s maiden name, emergency contact person, etc.? THE BOY WAS GASPING AND CRYING IN EXTREME PAIN FROM WHATEVER DAMAGE WAS DONE BY THE SPEEDING VEHICLE THAT SLAMMED INTO HIS BODY. Trust me on this, he was in no condition to tell me his life story.
#4 Why didn’t I lie and tell the cops that I had witnessed the accident so that — what?? What the hell would that have solved? If I didn’t ACTUALLY see what happened and other people did, I think the cops would be able to figure out pretty quickly that I was lying. Soooo … I really don’t know what else to say about that one.
I don’t know how to feel about the fact that this post went viral. On the one hand, it was a relief to share the experience and have so many people who I haven’t even met show their understanding of the absolute frustration that black people are dealing with everyday in this country. It was good to feel supported and, yeah, I guess I’ll go ahead and say it - to be validated. At the same time, I’m definitely concerned, especially with people TAGGING the Baltimore City police department in their shares, talking about getting guns and going out and killing people, and some of the other more violent things that folks are proposing be done about the current situation we find ourselves in. I would hate to think that my post would be the cause of somebody going out and doing something that they’ll regret.
Thank you to everyone who reached out. Thank you for the kind words, thank you for caring about the well-being of that young man when no one else did, thank you for the prayers that were sent out to him. I hope that we can somehow use experiences like these as a catalyst for positive change and not just fuel to feed the fires of our collective rage. I don’t have the answers for how to bring ourselves out of this situation, but one thing that recent events have done is motivate me to get up and do SOMETHING. I sincerely hope that others will do the same.
This is what happens when we speak out….