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Photo courtesy of Brandi Redd

Poetry

 

an open letter to the white girls caught chanting “NIGGER” on Snapchat, again

how privileged you are the social stigma

of being a racist lingers for only a week. 

that white woman tears wash away the stench 

that should follow the shit still stuck to

the roof of your mouth. but it’s not your fault.

you don’t know that words have meanings 

or histories. and it is “so unfair” that we “get to say It”—

this “reverse racism” which makes you too uncomfortable 

to sing our songs outside of monochromatic parties 

fueled by Sour Dabs and White Claw. 

but you weren’t singing.

your coven chanted your “word of the night” 

as if to summon Jim Crow and Judge Lynch 

from their light slumber. it’s our fault

you never had the ovicular fortitude to laugh-slur

in front of we who must now endure an apology 

as honest as your hair compared to its roots. 

and as your parents rush to protect your fragile backs 

from the whips and lash of eyes as you pass 

through the halls, the right whispers calling you 

exactly what you are, your former teacher 

has only one question—avoided by administration 

cautioned by legal counsel—which “nigger” 

replaced my name? replaced Chris and La Toya’s? 

Hannah and Timothy’s? Michael and Anthony’s? 

Nneoma and Ashanti’s? Shaniah and Ashley’s?

By MEH (Matthew E. Henry)

Matthew E. Henry (MEH) is a multiple Pushcart and Best of the Net nominated poet and short story writer. His works are appearing or forthcoming in various publications, including Bryant Literary Review, Kweli Journal, Longleaf Review, Ploughshares, Poetry East, The Radical Teacher, Rhino, Rigorous, Rise Up Review, Spillway, Tahoma Literary Review and 3Elements Literary Review. The author of Teaching While Black (Main Street Rag, 2020), MEH is an educator who received his MFA from Seattle Pacific University, yet continued to spend money he didn’t have completing an MA in theology and a PhD in education. His work can be found on www.MEHPoeting.com.

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