Nigger: An Open Letter to the White Moderate

Good evening. I pen this missive with a kind, calming smile pasted to my acceptably brown face.
Dear Friend, I am not angry. I hope this finds you and yours well. This is the result of
My contemplation and you deserve notice
Of that which I have found.
Last week you called yourself
Blacker than me.
The setting: any place in America. The subject: music.
I expressed interest in Generic Pop Group.
You expressed interest in Mainstream Hip Hop Artist.
Result: you proclaimed yourself blacker than me.
You: I’m blacker than you are!
In the moment I confess I was silent.
Your audacity intrigued me, dear friend.
In the moment I felt the familiar heat of doubt,
followed by the icy cold of righteous anger and
The stinging heat of the noose.
Yes, friend, I was angry.
In death they say
you see your life flash before you.
In death–death of myself as a
“Safe Black Friend”–I saw mine, the weight
Of nooses around my neck:
I saw my acceptability for my
safe language
and my passing into your space
as long as I was above–more than–
your White neutral friends.
I saw myself answering your
many questions and enduring your
Exaggerated neck rolls and your silence
in the face of the aggression
of our White peers.
I saw myself smiling weakly
at your blackccent and overlooking your never ending questions
(no, I don’t know anyone who does that,
yes, this is my hair,
no I can’t teach you to twerk).
All of this in death I saw.
When I came through you were a thing, a foreign creature
That I could not behold.
It is true. I cannot look at you,
dear moderate.
Even while the noose lingers,
I set my eyes apart from you.
I cannot stomach your insistence on
Being “one of us,”
your obsession with
our bodies and your well-meaning passive aggressive complaints about the state our homes.
Your hostile complaints about Us as They
*they don’t take care of their kids!
*they are the real racists!
*they keep racism alive by talking about it!

I cannot abide your
silencing and demanding voice when
that Awful White Guy With Whom
You Disagree said (insert thing that hurt
your feelings), your sending me after him with your coded “Racist!”
Yes, you use it ironically, moderate.
According to you the use of the word “nigger” is much worse than the action of Nigger performed against Black bodies:
my continued denied employment or
my son’s continued need to prove
the worth of his existence
Or my daughter’s continued absence
From any narrative, the violence
Continually enacted upon her
(I imagine you reading this, moderate, rolling your eyes, claiming: she’s just angry…
thugs like him perpetuate the stereotype…)
You are usually silent when we are killed, moderate. Or, you want to wait. For the facts. Why, moderate?
Why does my skin create
discomfort within you?
Moderate?
Why do you get to speak to what issues
Will be important, moderate?
Why do you beckon to me
To put down my cause
And take up yours?
Moderate?
Why must I wait for you to care?
Why do you offer your support with strings,
Moderate?
Why do you threaten me with it
When I displease you?
You claim you are one of us.
You claim to stand beside us.
Come then, moderate.
Come.
They will arrive soon with hoses
And taunts
And violence.
To them you will be a Nigger.
The actions will sting more
Than the word ever could.
Didn’t you know–the power is not in
My “hurt feelings!”
The power of Nigger is the
system behind the word!
You probably can’t see it from
Your vantage.
You will though.
When you come.
They may kill you, moderate.
They may deny you patronage
And heritage.
If you are one of us, come.
Come.
I leave you, moderate, with this:
If you are to be one of us, be one of us.
But know, dear moderate–
to be black is to be
in danger
of being
a Nigger.
To be a nigger
You have to endure
All manner of abuses
And people like you
Demanding we smile pretty
Lest you withdraw your malleable
Support.
To be a nigger
you have to be able
to endure the noose.

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