I’ve never been in the hull of a slave ship
chained and starving, drinking my urine
lying in my excrement.
I’ve never been forced to leave
my homeland, my family, my tribe,
enslaved by those who saw me as subhuman.
I’ve never picked cotton fifteen hours a day
under the whip of overseers who
raped me when the sun went down
and when I was emancipated, hung me from a
lynching tree, torched my home and family
denied my right to vote.
I’ve never moved north for higher ground
to neighborhoods depleted of dollars and hope,
goods and services, red-lined out of moving up.
I’ve never been called nigger, refused a table, watched
my children in their Sunday best internalize the word
while I struck them to teach obedience so they could live.
I’ve never attended sub-par segregated schools
or at college worked harder, scored higher
for less recognition, offered fewer jobs at lower pay.
I’ve never been profiled by police
because they saw a violent criminal
easy to spot, hair-trigger ready.
I’ve never endured my success to the highest office
being questioned, called illegitimate, in a country
that my people love in spite of it’s hatred of my kind.
I’ve never been anywhere
without the cloak
of my white skin.
Unraveling privilege is
© 2019, Ellen Woods