Even Paint Jobs Fade
History books are defaced with white paint,
smeared over words and pictures
that someone didn’t want others to see.
But now, that white paint is fading
from the books of history
yet some will forever see
missing, ripped pages remain lost,
tossed aside and vandalized by
pale, jealous hands and bitter so-called winners
who’ve ransacked cultures all over the world.
As the white facade fades from pages
we see how far ingrained systemic racism extends;
how it wasn’t just white men
who helped us race to space
or melt faces with dropped techno bases.
Even the rebel rousing progressive beatniks
seemed to skip over the black poet
who coined their movement.
The deteriorating white ink shrinks
upon the crowned king of rock n roll
to better see the the Ma that got the blues
and the Big Momma from which he stole
while Tulsa, Oklahoma still smells the burnt aroma
of their paragraphs caught in a massive back-draft
as white lines in Wilmington, North Carolina’s pages
are are only now beginning to fade
yet their communities are far from the only ones
to see their page numbers in history expunged,
like those who built Phoenix in Arizona’s scalding sun
or even the the omission of black Mexicans.
Further back we see chapters rewritten
to make a war look civil,
while only now do the dribbles of paint
quickly drizzled on Alabama civil deaths begin fade,
not to mention Trezzvant Anderson and his crusade
to expose the Jim Crow pains.
Turning back the pages today, we see underneath
the paint; to see scenes revealing slaves
for which founding fathers paid
attention to just two thirds of a soul on plantations
despite some who helped birth the creation of a nation.
Turning back more pages in history sees
the stains of paint to hide Beethoven’s face
while pages of other musical masters like
George Bridgetower and Chevalier de Saint-Georges
have been torn out and ignored, strewn on floors,
just like the whitewashed queens and kings
from Ethiopia's shores,
just like Mansa Musa and the Malis,
even the story of Jesus and his pain has been folly,
painstakingly whitewashed for so long,
many just believe the stain.
And it’s not only skin tones that have been known
to be prone to this, the white paint has been included
in foods and recipes sections of history too.
Luckily, all paint jobs fade
and we don’t read by candlelight anymore,
so we can see the contours of the blots poured
ensures that nobody can ignore the attempted erasure
of scores of races and faces in places all over.
The sobering smell of the dried paint shows
we must no longer allow white hands to write history,
for it is we the people who need to learn
from our past, our mistakes and our saving graces
to understand how to allow ourselves to discern
the bell of freedom from a dog whistle
so that we ensure Lady Justice’s veil is upturned on one eye,
not just to notice thumbs on scales but the beautiful fire
of Lady Liberty’s torch continuing to burn bright.
*****This poem has been edited/expanded to include information and links about the whitewashing of yams, Trezzvant Anderson and many artistic depictions of Ethiopian royalty . *****