Amy Barlow Liberatore… stories of lost years, wild times, mental variety, faith, and lots of jazz

Tag Archives: Racism

Response to Great White Whines

So sorry you’re perturbed
That your lunch was disturbed
by our chanting
in the hallowed halls of
the food court

Loud voices demanding change, laying down
bodies; a die-in to protest
killing of unarmed black men
We were faces of all shades
chanting in one voice:

“Black lives matter”
Indigestion? You had it coming

© 2015 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

ABC Wednesday, Q for Quandary… I am called white; Anglo; WASP, even, which stands for the ubiquitous White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and I stand with Black Lives Matter protesters. This is a natural extension of following Jesus, an enduring symbol of love at its best, embracing everyone as family. I admit I have a hard time embracing bigots; it’s my Christian learning curve.

White folks often cloak their racism in whitespeak, without realizing they are being offensive and ignorant. A good example was this true story above, where a white woman complained to other white women at JCPenney in my presence. She said, “They have the right to complain, but… do they have to use the food court? I had to try and explain what was happening to my granddaughter.” I replied, as evenly as I could, “I was one of the protesters. If you need help explaining it to her, let me know.” She was shocked.

She didn’t want my help. She merely wanted to bitch about being inconvenienced in the smallest of ways… some noise during her fast-food lunch. And she didn’t listen anyway, so I wonder what exactly she told her granddaughter. If she had listened, she would have understood that this was an organized, peaceful exercise of free-speech rights, planned in conjunction with mall security, who were informed by the group beforehand. We were protesting the recent killing of Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed young black man with schizophrenia who had gone off his meds and was killed by a white police officer who discharged 14 bullets. Wisconsin – America – has a race problem, and it’s up to all of us to solve it.

Other Great White Whines:
Why do “they” have to tie up traffic during rush hour? (They? Really? Let’s start there…)
Why aren’t “they” nice like Martin Luther, King? The same people would complain about Dr. King if he was still alive. In fact, they would whine about any public assembly that calls for accountability, when it’s the white race being called out for unthinking privilege.)

My quandary is that I’m a white civil rights advocate. Racists, beige like me, assume I will tolerate their whining, when in fact I don’t, bluntly. And, at first glance, people of color see me as “one of the crackers,” which I’m not.

Many thanks to Mrs. Nesbitt for starting ABC Wednesday, and special thanks to Roger and the ABC gang for keeping those letters rollin’!  A great collective.  Amy


Clueless Crux of the Klan

Bound by
blood-spilled ties
Lies lingering
on forked tongues

Generations of
isolation
indignation
under-education

Toddlers in Klan hoods
pointy as their parents’ heads
Gleaming white dunce caps
Halloween meets HollowHead

Legacy of spittle-drop
shouts and
conspiratorial whispers
“…president is a n*****”

Dude once told me blacks are
‘taking our women’
‘YOUR’ WHAT?
responded/resounded I

Got to
Got to
Got to
keep that bloodline pure

(Just like Hitler, soooo original)

Nazi Yahtzee
Roll the dice
We lose twice

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; view the original image HERE.   “Klan-sheet-music” by Original uploader was Bcrowell at en.wikipedia – Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Klan-sheet-music.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Klan-sheet-music.jpg.

You can’t spell FASCIST without the letters F-A-C-T-S.

The more we learn through calm engagement of racists, the more we understand the root causes. Self-hatred, parental abuse, moms who were subjugated servants, the crass collage; the bleachbright hoods of ultimate cowardice: “I will declare myself the ultimate arbiter of God’s justice, but I’ll do it in disguise.”

Yeah, you so macho.

Thanks to Roger and Mrs. Nesbitt at ABC Wednesday for getting my righteous indignation flowing over the letter “C.” Just remember, I could have picked a worse word!! Peace, Amy


So Dangerous He Needs a Soo-da-nim
(Racist Homophobes Who Comment on My Blog)

He knows the Founders so well
Sure of Second Amendment intent
He channels Jefferson
in sick séances where
the tea’s past rancid
but the linen is fancy
except for the nibbles
of moths in every closet

He is steady on the mark
with his Glock and his spiel
about black/brown (like
HIS ancestors didn’t
come from Africa too)
About ‘cullahed peeples’
and their unoriginal sins
About ‘faggots who want him
to bend over and take it’
He knows it by their eyes

His guns were loaded that day
He knew the kid, he really did
Must’ve because he’s been
entrusted with innuendo that
spews out his piehole like
a sick gospel. And he lives
right down the block from you

But he keeps swastikas
hidden in the basement
encased in old-growth wood
covered by a Confederate flag
Proud patriot with a
genocidal mind and a blog
He’s so dangerous, he told me,
he needs a pseudonym

Sad, dangerous, sick
little man with a laptop
he uses at Denny’s and also
big guns and bigger dreams
Gonna clean up AmeriKKKa
We won’t know his real name
‘til we see it on the CNN crawl
But the ironic thing is
his mentor’s name
is Jewish.

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

His name is Legion. His mentor is Zimmerman. He trolled (!) my blog for a long while, actually claiming he writes under an assumed name, lest the government shut him down. I, like a dutiful bartender, called him a cab and sent him back to his bunker.


I Stand My Ground With My Words

Why was the life of a black youth
walking through his “white” neighborhood
snuffed out by an old man’s bullet?

Fear. Racism. Because Zim had a gun.

When did “standing your ground”
mean wielding not words,
but a weapon?

Bad laws. NRA lobby $$.

When will we decide to
engage in conversation and reject
vigilante injustice?

When we resume being human.

We’ve been in collective PTSD
since 9-11, and brown and black folks
have lost ground since then.

Don’t tell me it’s not racism.

Hearts have hardened by war
and lies and this horrid Congress,
divided and divorced from reality.

They have armed guards.

Try this on for size: If you cannot
stand your ground with words, you’re
not mature enough to own a pistol.

Your possessions are not worth a life.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
‘Nuff said. For Poets United’s Poetry Pantry, Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Open Link Monday, and dverse Open Mic Night.


Attica Arrest(ed development)

One day, by my driveway
A man in a used sedan was stopped by a cop
for D.W.B. (Driving While Black)

I know this is so because I asked the officer
why the man was pulled over

Officer Smithjones replied,
“He was driving with an impaired view of his windshield.”
Come again?
“He had Mardi Gras beads hanging from his rear view mirror.”

Oh. Then my sharp little pie-eater opened wide,
first muttering, then sputtering, uttered at top volume
(for the benefit of staring, but unconcerned, neighbors):

“All the rednecks in this town with
big fuzzy dice like dried-up 20-mule-team
cajones hanging in their big ole trucks, and
you stopped this man over a string of beads?
And you wonder why people decry we’re a
‘don’t-let-the-sun-set-on-your-ass’ town?”

To make it more poignantly, patently ridiculous,
the poor guy was trying to make his way to AA

Ironic, since that town
almost drove me to drink

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For dverse, our ‘bartender’ Kelvin asked for poems in the form of an anecdote. Keep it short and sweet and interesting. Also for Sunday Scribblings, where the prompt is “sharp.”

I still can’t believe I survived five years in a town where someone flew a Confederate flag in front of his house and the “N” word was used without hesitation.  Of course, I have no time for racism and I do call it out.  I hate being in a Wonder Bread crowd and people assuming I’m “one of the gang.”  I’m social justice, hard core, sharp tongue and all.  It loses me friends, but when it does, I say, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” because they were not friends to begin with – friends share values, like integrity.

True story, edited from an old version. Though I knew many wonderful folks during our years there, the authoritarian figures were often racist and WAY out of line. I believe it’s part of the blowback of never having reconciliation sessions after the “Attica Prison Riots” of the ‘70s.


Folks, I know I’m way behind in visiting your sites, and for that I apologize. Think I’m back in the swing of things, but (and this is a good thing, not a complaint!) so many folks have wonderful comments, it’s hard to get to everyone’s sites for a look. I’ve given up on responding to comments on my work, but I guess visiting your site is better than blathering here!

Josie Two Shoes, a new friend, has begun her own prompt called “Two Shoes Tuesday.” This week’s word is “sacrifice,” so see what you think of my efforts below. I love all you folks for visiting, for being patient when I’m battling my manic depression, for being a source of strength, support, and community to me and so many others. Peace, Amy

African Mother’s Ferocious Love

Hunted, trapped like animals in their own village.
Strapped one to another: Mother, daughter and son.
Shoved into ships, below deck, so cramped,
no room to stand, sitting in human waste, crying.

The voyage was nauseating, grueling.
Thin gruel, water from barrels, not like
the clean, cool waters of streams of home.
Steadily, her people died of fever and starvation.

The sound of the whippings, the moans, night murmurs.
Her son finally succumbed to the wasting disease.
Now, as she wondered whether they would ever see land,
she felt his same gripping pain in her gut.

Up on deck for the hosing down and whipping,
she clutched her baby girl in her arms, carefully
inched her way to the rail and, in an instant,
they were both overboard, taken by the sea.

Her son had already been given to the water
after his death, tossed over like garbage.
At least now she and her baby girl would join her son,
together forever, engulfed in the endless waters. Free.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

NOTE: This poem has been edited from its original form, written in 2010.  It also appears at my poetic haven, Poets United.


No matter what I post, I always make a point of mentioning my poetic hearth, or home, or launching pad, or cafe… I am proud to be a member of Poets United, and all my poems are backtracked there to a constantly updating feed. Today, they had a specific prompt, and so I was thrilled to write something just for them.

HeLa

Blacks abused, a story
that seems to have no end.
Obscure beginning for HeLa.
One woman’s cancer cells were
scraped away as she lay dying, more
from the treatment than the cancer itself.
Johns Hopkins implanted radioactive rods in
her womb until all inside her turned bomb-black.
The cells taken from her uterus, much like a skin shed
in death, were put on the market and migrated from lab
to lab until they were all over the world. But no one told
her family, nor did they give them any of the money… quite
a considerable amount, not to mention the intellectual property.

Henrietta Laks was used, over and over, by whites, for profit.
First, in life, by cruel poverty, segregation, inability to
care for her own, to see to her kids’ well-being, to their
education; one daughter was institutionalized, as she had
married her first cousin, like folks did back in those
days. Her cervical cancer was detected far too late;
she died so young. Then, after her death, her
“immortal cells,” truly a medical miracle,
proliferated without anyone’s say-so,
and only by chance did her daughter
find out Mom had been to outer
space, survived bomb blasts,
outlasted most of her kin,
but only bits of Mom.
Black folks always
feared Johns
Hopkins.
Now
they
know
why.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Poets United’s Think Tank Thursday asked us to write a poem based on a book. Henrietta Lacks is the subject of a book I recently read, called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. On the cover is a picture of a vibrant, fun-loving girl, dressed up to go out on the town. A few short years later, she was dead of cervical cancer… but scientists “harvested” her cells, which seemed to have immortality; whatever they did to them, “HeLa cells” (they used the first two letters of first and last names of all patients from whom they harvested cells, and all without family permission or compensation) survived and proved to be hearty. Of course, members of the scientific “brain trust” also perpetrated other atrocities on Black Americans, including the infamous Tuskeegee sterilization of thousands of fertile men and women, in hopes of narrowing the race to “controllable” numbers.

Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah, eventually teamed with the book’s author, Rebecca Skloot, a white writer who gained Deborah’s trust. Together they embarked on a journey back in time, tracing the history of both the woman Henrietta and the HeLa strain of cervical cells. Read it – horrifying and fascinating history. For more on Henrietta, and to view the picture mentioned in the poem, click HERE. Peace, Amy


Whoa, babe, first day of PAD (Poem a Day, all April), and it’s a trifecta!  Process notes below, but first, the poem.

REFLECTOR BABE

If I could have one power
it probably would be
a magic mirror carried
all over town with me.

If someone shouted, “N*****!”
I’d take it from my purse
to hold it up before them
and then they’d want to curse;

for they would see a black face,
they’d stare quite quizzically.
And then I’d asked them plainly,
“Do you see what I see?”

Or bullies shoving gay kids
into the garbage bin.
My mirror’d show them how they’d look
once they had been tossed in.

The rich would see the homeless,
the cheaters, a square dealer.
Oh, with my mirror, I might have
the powers of a healer.

For even if they didn’t change,
perhaps they’d take some time
reflecting on their ways, o Lord!
Would that not be sublime?

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Sunday Scribblings (reflect), Poetic Bloomings (super hero), and Poets United’s Poetry Pantry. I thought about the prompt “reflect” and, rather than render another reflection about politics, child abuse, depression, or whatever the heck was on my mind, I’d use the mirror image. Then Blooms wanted poems about super heros, and since I had already posted “Volume Control Grrrl” (with a flick of my wrist, I could render booming car stereos mute, as well as people loudly discussing their gall bladder operations while I’m trying to eat at the next table), I thought this would be more in keeping with my values. And Poetry Pantry? Hell, I post EVERYTHING at Poets United, because they are my Gang of Many Wonderful People! Peace, Amy


1955

She was good looking.
He whistled in appreciation.
Rednecks approached: “Black boy,
gonna teach you a lesson.”

Pistol whipped, drowned, 14.  Emmett Till.
Open casket: Mama’s wishes.
That cruel reality slapped us awake.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Trifecta Friday: Write a horror poem or story in exactly 33 words, without employing the following words: blood, scream, died, death, knife, gun, or kill. I chose this true story because for me, there is nothing more frightening than to put oneself in the shoes of a victim of hate crime, and Emmett Till’s death and public funeral were key to the outrage that sparked the Civil Rights Movement, a cause my mother believed in deeply and outspokenly.

This poem will also appear at Poets United, my poetic peeps.


Skin Like a Cloak
“The truth is,” said the professor,
“we wear our skin, each one of us,
like a cloak. Some feel fervently
that the color of the cover matters
greatly; others see only history.

“The residue of the bad old days,
‘black’ and ‘white.’ Vessels swept
into the harbor, offloading human
cargo. For these battered souls,
no breeze could refresh their sad
brokenness. Scores of years later,
for the Confederate flagged and
South Will Rise Againers, these stories
are muted, revised, considered
best stored in a trunk, hidden away.

“But we,” she continued, “can get to
the heart of injustice by unlocking
that attic door, dusting off the trunk,
prying loose its locks, and delving into
its heart of shame, of inhuman cruelty.

“Whites start by remembering.”

“By humbling ourselves to the truth.”

“By understanding the depths to which
‘entitled’ Anglos can sink when led by
minds filled with ignorance, greed, and
cruelty.”

“Only by recognizing the signs of such
wretchedness taking root in the American
mainstream and fighting it… only then
can we ensure it won’t happen again.”

© Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Written for dverse Poets’ Pub and posted to my poetic touchstone, Poets United.