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Unforgivable Blackness (1841-1908)

Unforgivable Blackness (1841-1908)

Police brutality, particularly violence against black people, has become a pre-eminent issue in today's America, and rightfully so. In a nation built on the backs of African slaves, and continuously promulgating institutional racism against coloured people, we must speak out against it, now more than ever. New contributor Yaz Lancaster, in a series that spans from 1841 to 2016, chronicles this abuse, and, by shedding light on it, subverts it. We're proud to present the first part of their "Unforgivable Blackness."


‘Unforgivable Blackness’ started out as a final assignment for an African American literature unit in my high school English class four years ago; I've since revised the work  in light of the recent events involving the struggles and deaths of Black people in America.

Unforgivable Blackness (1841-1908)

1908

I’m Jack Johnson.
The Darkie, the Coon, the Ethiopian,
the Dinge, the Smoke, and
THE MOST WICKED MAN ON EARTH!
I’m the Unofficial champion
of your Battle Royale,
staining the minds of pure women
and of America
With my Unforgivable Blackness
coursing through my Big Black Body.
I tip my hat for the audiences
Who can only see one way
but could never understand the other
because that’s just the way things are.

I’m Jack Johnson;
danger to the natural order.
I am the inherited evil—
the Cronus of America,
shamelessly swallowing up
the hearts of the Great White Hope.
I am but a Slave,
To the mighty Mann,
and, to Jim Crow,
THE GALVESTON GIANT!
But never seen as ‘Jack the Man.’
Though I refuse to be Inferior,
That is all I’ll ever be.
Things look good  from the exterior
in this scarred society.

1841

I’s Jim the Slave. 
I ain’t free, and I ain’t ever was
nor will I’s ever be.
I ain’t got no money, but
It don’t matter.
S’pose I did—
I’d just become some Nigger with dollar bills
but still jus' a Slave
 in white folks’ heads,
en dey would never believeI ain't stole it;
 it wouldn’t make sense.
Dey all de same really—
everyone is just reglar rapscalllions

foolin’ to be someone better.

I’s Jim,
en I ain’t a Slave
en I owns myself.
But really, I’s only Jim
en I ain’t no one different.
I still ain’t seen no king or duke
or Frenchman
who don’t speak English.
I ain’t seen no rich black folks, 

‘cept the ones ownin’ dey selves.
En I still can’t understand
why a king would have value
for only half a chile'
when he ain’t no use,

en raise his chillen' to see dat as wise.
But I guess everyone  
is just reglar rapscallions in de end. 


Yaz Lancaster is a student at New York University studying music performance and creative writing. Their work has appeared in Potluck Magazine and elsewhere. When they aren’t violin-ing or writing, they sometimes do other things. Follow them on Twitter.

 

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