A little after the series finale of “Good Times;”
A child loving today and anxious for tomorrow,
Never realizing there were “rules” I was supposed to follow.
Inexcusable injustices our race suffers, no doubt,
Is why some think they have whites all figured out;
Lumping them together on the actions of a few,
How DARE this be something I chose not to do.
A shy, intelligent child trying to find his place,
Not the least bit concerned of the color of another’s face;
This show of love is what I assumed all desired,
As I began being “punished” for not doing what was required.
I carried myself in such a way that didn’t match,
The unwritten rules in which the black community has become attached;
I spoke in such a way that showed proper English for me, came first,
As this was comparable to some as using bad language in church.
Along with my friends not all being of the African-American persuasion,
I didn’t get the memo to state they weren’t allowed to be Caucasian;
An explanation of my choices, I didn’t feel was necessary,
This was when the word “sellout” was added to my vocabulary.
A community in which many felt something was owed,
I didn’t often make payments, severely bucking the “code;”
No escape from this program; no changing of the station,
As this word was often spewed to me without hesitation.
Not nearly the first in this way to have been verbally abused,
Once in a while, I was hurt, but most of the time, I was confused;
If equality was something we desperately desired,
Why was I put down rather than admired?
Nothing at all wrong with wanting to be treated the same,
I guess I misunderstood that whites weren’t part of that game;
Unsure why some took my feelings and trampled,
Since all I did wrong was lead by example.
As a teen, it wasn’t at all difficult to see,
That if I wanted to see change, then maybe it should start with me;
I figured that was the best way to show I meant business,
But from my own community is where I encountered the most resistance.
“Ashamed to be black” to me was many times spoken,
As hearing “Uncle Tom” and “House Nigger” made me wonder if my people were joking;
Because while I was warned that all the racists weren’t of our kind,
I quickly learned that the worst of them wore a skin color very close to mine.
Just a nasty dream from which I would never awaken,
As I never put down my own people, but that was often how it was taken;
While hurtful as first, it didn’t take very long,
To realize this was merely jealousy’s song.
See, even as a child, I had the good sense,
Not to follow with those whose thought processes were dense;
It didn’t make sense for my character to be battered,
I had friends of all races, yet to them, the whites only mattered.
Many assumed I didn’t know of the struggle to be black,
Since after all, it wasn’t a weapon I were to use in every attack;
Experiencing the same, if not more, of the racist behaviors and such,
I just chose to live my life and not use that as a crutch.
Fast forward nearly 36 years,
When being called a “sellout” brings more laughs than tears;
Since I know the real reason this is where many like to go,
It’s because they lack the internal strength to learn what I know.
I behave as I choose, not follow like a lost kitten,
Since I know there’s a reason all those “rules” are unwritten;
Many take shots, thinking that will make me depart,
When they know deep down, they crave to have the same heart.
A lot of my people won’t agree, but that’s not something in which I’ll strive,
I didn’t need approval back then and I damn sure don’t need it now at 35;
I’m quite comfortable in my own skin, despite what others believe,
As I’ve lived this life lacking the desire to deceive.
A person with my thinking is hard for many to accept,
As they resort to calling me “sellout” because they have nothing intelligent left;
The beauty of that is that it took very little time to see,
That resorting to that shows more about the person saying it than it does about me.
– Robert People, 4/25/15