What It Means

You didn’t ask—no one has asked
but this is why I’m afraid of black people:

I’m afraid of black people
because television shows, movies,
newspapers, magazines, and popular songs
have taught me that black people
hate me and want to hurt me
because I’m white and because being white
makes me guilty both of injustices
being committed now and injustices
that hang from our nation’s history
like a stinking dead albatross around
a maddened, decrepit mariner’s neck.

And I’m afraid because
I cannot understand
what it means to be an American
and be black.

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