Black and White History

Happy Black History Month! In order to kick it off, I thought I’d go with something near and dear to my heart: acting.

No Romeo and Juliet here. The type of acting I mean is the type that everyone does. The choices in personality, hobbies and people that we make every day. As you’re well aware, in many places, America especially, you’re expected to make certain choices based on your economic status, gender, location and of course, race.

And I think that’s bullshit.

As a black/puerto rican man, I’ve been expected to do everything from freestyle rap on the spot (give me 2 minutes at least), dance the bachata (give me at least 6 to remember the steps) and know every rapper in the game (I honestly listen to more Rise Against). But the biggest  thing that I’m expected to be: black.

What does that mean? Depends on the person. Some people expect me to use certain slang, others expect me to be a legitimate threat. When I use certain vocabulary, some people say “i’m acting white”. This is always surprises me, because I haven’t tried out miming in at least 18 years. And this phrase horribly disregards every experience I’ve had leading up in my life to a single moment and reduces it to one factor: my race.

We’re in 2015, and I have no definite solution to this occurrence. All I can say is that there are people who look past race to judge character in my life, and for every person that has done that and continues to do so, I thank you. So until the rest of the world comes around, the best thing to do is to channel those feelings of frustration and ignorance into something better.

Like a poem.

Without further ado, please enjoy:

Red, White, Blue, Yellow

They want me to be “white”, America

My grammar must be exquisite.

I always need to speak in full sentences.

I should wear a suit and a tie everywhere I go.

But when I dress and talk

The way you would have me

I am told:
“You speak well for a black man

But we know what you are.

You should be that instead.”

They want me to be “black”, America.

A loose flow of words

And short phrases

Barely

Connected

Through a couple of rhyming verbs.

Things you heard

A million times before

But you know the score

So homie, don’t be sore

When I bust these rhymes down like a door

And−

“What was that? No more?”

Hey!

Is this your way

To say

“Stop tryin’ to be black.

That’s not what you are

You’re better off actin’ white!”

I’m not white, America.

But I am Puerto Rican!

Mi gentes?

They want me to be Hispanic, America

To speak Span-Ish

To dance the bachata

To listen to some salsa

To make some arroz con pollo

To say me jamo

Excuse me, me llamo…

Que tu dices?

“No, no, no, papi. Tu no comprendes es-pan-ol.

Be…” something else?

So what’s my choice, America?

Black, White, Hispanic, Jamaican, British, Russian, Irish?
How about a human being, America?

A being that speaks in full sentences,

Although, from time-to-time my grammar will slip

And dip

Into a rhyming pattern.

One who can say hola

And yo.

And hello.

To be who I am,

Not just what you want to be, America.

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