Picture of portion of desert labyrinth. Sandy ground with a semi circle line of rocks of various sizes piled together

Sarah, Seeking

Thoughts and Prayers and Poetry

I Don't Remember

I don't remember being taught to fear

it came in such small imperceptible ways

building up over time

The broad brush adding a menacing aura 

to anyone with darker skin

Unless of course, 

they were the exception to the rule

they were smart enough, polite enough

I don't remember being taught to fear

but the lesson was learned all the same

I remember a city bisected by highways

Dividing, segregating, limiting

Burying generations of history under the asphalt

I remember neighborhoods you avoided

and the ones I discovered years later

I remember locking doors

anxious glances

white flight to the suburbs

I remember debates about schools,

about busing, about quotas, about access*

about the right to not go to That School

I remember fear fueled anger

sixteen years old and not truly understanding

only knowing the power of reputation

I remember the differences clearly visible

in the marching bands at the Thanksgiving Day parade

in the condition of the sports fields

I don't remember being taught to fear

but the lesson was learned all the same

Racism is the water we swim in,

the air we breath

The air we don't have to fight for,

the breath that isn't stolen from us

It cannot be sifted out,

it is bonded to every part

It is the arrogance of supremacy that landed on these shores

and laid claim 

to that which was not up for grabs

It is the violence of a country built on the backs of slaves

stolen from their homes, 

tortured and exploited for their labor

It is the greed of wealth gathered in the hands of the few

at the expense of the health and well-being of the many

It is the doors to home and property kept locked and shut 

by redlines and loans denied

It is the shuttered precincts and poll taxes

that deny ballots and voice

It is white fragility that cannot name what it does not recognize

and will not turn to look at the pain of a neighbor

It is history books that make heroes out of slavers

and are too silent to name Black excellence

It is state sanctioned violence in the name of perceived threat

from unarmed Black boys

while White men with guns are left alone

It is all the things I cannot name because I am not its victim

because I am allowed to walk away

I am allowed to forget

to rest in ignorance 

while my friends, colleagues, neighbors lay awake 

wondering who will be next

I don't remember being taught to fear

but I soaked up the fear of the world around me

centered on groups that were othered

for the color of their skin

When I finally came to recognize the fear,

and sought to overcome it 

Instead I was taught to fear

speaking words of support

     of challenge

     lest I invite conflict and animosity

     even though the risk to me

was far less than my life

To speak against this fear 

     requires new bravery

     against voices louder

     and hate stronger

     than I ever realized

but to do any less is unthinkable

For I have new fears today...

     of corrupt systems

     and authority abused

     of a country ignoring its own history,

     creating an enemy out of children of God

failing to attend to the anguished cries

     of empty gestures that look good on today's front page

     but returns to status quo when the cameras turn off

     of an arc of justice that sometimes bends backwards

     when we get too close to something better

     of my own sin, my own complicity

my own comfort that finds silence easier

I don't remember being taught to fear. 

   but must unlearn the lesson all the same

     Each day unravel a lifetime of prejudice

     so I can pursue justice, love fiercely,

listen faithfully, and speak bravely

You've got to be taught To hate and fear You've got to be taught From year to year Its got to be drummed in your dear little ear You've got to be carefully taught You've got to be taught To be afraid

"You've Got to Be Taught" - South Pacific

Sarah Kingsbery

June 6, 2020

*My four years of high school were marked by an on-going court case around busing and race-based school assignment. The new "race-neutral" assignment plan went into effect the year after I graduated. https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2002/04/24/32scotus.h21.html

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