Red Lining

Day 341: Red Lining

My mother grew up white in Detroit

12 Mile,

Royal Oak, Michigan

in the 1960’s

where young children

privileged enough

to be born on the right side of the line

played Red Rover in picket fences

just a pebbles throw from 8 Mile Road

america’s most defining city-suburb line

where institutionalized racism learned to procreate

In a time when an integrated neighborhood was considered unstable

‘Red lining’ was used as a restrictive covenant creating an “invisible” barrier that determined where people of color could live

and buy homes

city officials drew  maps

and watched  cities sink into soil

And In these streets

the red lines still run deep

like the feet of  diasporic peoples flee

and in 2010 this city seems to be burning from the inside out

the realtors using skin as charcoal

the blacker the faster they burn

the happier the customers

who are not afraid to say “we want no color here”

But it ain’t just Detroit

it’s Philadelphia

the 5 Burrows

it’s how our communities turned ghettos began to burn

best believe it’s the Dirty South

Los Angeles

it’s not like we didn’t know

that racism has plagued every inch of “american” soil

At Stanford

we learn these facts at a distance

in our suburban cul-de-sac bubble

pretending that the “diversity” in our classrooms

means we’ve come far from our past

and that far is enough

we throw the phrase Post Race around as if it’s something we’ve beaten

when we know we aren’t even in remission

those of us born on a certain side of the line

remember the taste of race enough to identify what it is and what it isn’t

We know

it’s my ethnic studies teacher saying that we don’t grow up knowing that students of color are under-represented in university classrooms

it’s my white classmates agreeing with the statement

it’s the brown bodies in the room that don’t even need to open our eyes to see it

it’s Oscar Grant’s murderer getting convicted of involuntary manslaughter- when you can see the entire interaction on YouTube

it is the language

how it doesn’t seem to fit right on our tongues

it’s the history books’ ancients

it’s the process we go through

to teach ourselves to reason this is wrong

never learning how to fix it

that would be too dangerous

it would only darken the line between us

as if sitting in this filth doesn’t

we play discussions with history

as if we didn’t learn the lesson

We have read of the lynching

whether erased from Texas textbooks or not

we will remember

how black bodies hung in the deep south

white men

fronting whiter capes

playing god

making angels out of young boys

we watched as their halos fell below the jaw-line

only gasping at the cracking noise

of bone

to skin

to rope

how something

other than weight hung in the air those days

it is heat

it is Hate

it is screaming our names

so what happens when in Arizona

Black, Chicano, Queer, and any Ethnic literature other than white is banned from the classroom to the furnace

how fast are we burning now

when you add the books

when all you can read are white pages

when will there be room for our black and brown bodies in this institution

there is enough white between the lines without having the banish the words

can you see the smoke rising?

the ink

hanging

can you breathe through the hypocrisy

or slice it

can you taste it

How in the last two years

unemployment went from 7 million to 16

while wealth held by millionaires in the united states rose by 18%

it is 2010

Some red lines seem to have only thickened since the 60’s

the government is playing maintenance

while we are burning in the aftermath

our homes

are ground zero

no one comes to visit

no one sees anything but dirt

but just beyond 8 Mile Road

there is a town

where young children

privileged enough to be born on the right side of the line

play Red Rover

between picket fences

we can see them from where we hang

it is as if we can almost reach them

from the darkness

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