Black Deaths

It may go without saying
Upon seeing my brown face
That I will always
And emphatically insist that
Black Lives Matter.
I have heard the arguments
And listened patiently to the counterpoint
Knowing I am neither heard
Nor understood, in the wind of the flatulent rebuttal,
“all lives….”
But really, this isn’t about black lives
It is actually about black deaths
and how they have never really mattered
in the white man’s world.
The strident calls for action
Coming from full lips and carved bodies
Dipped in golden, umber and ebony skin,
Their cry is not even a whisper in the shriveled rose pink ears
Of this ongoing colonial experiment.
In a history of proximity to whiteness,
Black deaths are unremarkable, unmarked, unnamed
Unknown and entirely unheard.

Black deaths…
like so much spoiled grain
shoveled off the deck of a boat and disposed of mid ocean
Black deaths…
from being flogged as beasts of burden
neither mourned nor memorialized

Black deaths…
that satisfy white fetishes for sexual heroism or conquest
Black deaths…
in burning crosses and exploding churches
Black deaths…
in segregated wars defending global white imperial oppression
Black deaths…
in the name of white science, the benefit from which black bodies are excluded
Black deaths…
in systems of servitude and serving time
Black deaths…
from weapons kept legal so white entitlement can lethalize fear
Black deaths…
in weekly hashtags that normalize the terror
and make suffering a brand

Black deaths…
nations, cities, hospitals, mothers, babies…

In these ways and many more
Even as you read this
Black deaths have not mattered
Black pain has not mattered
Black feeling has not mattered
Black lives have not mattered,
Because black humanity does not matter
…cannot matter
…is not matter
Beyond being one of the “master’s” most versatile tools
Used to inscribe the outline of a white world
Giving contrast and context to the caricature of empty racial lies.
How could black lives matter
When black does not have death,
but is merely erased.


I offered this poem as part of a workshop at the recent Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina.  The workshop (God is the Fact That…: Living to Die) explores the ways in which personal theologies about death may provide bridges across spiritual and cultural barriers.

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