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The Color of Guilt

By Matthew Chase

Published on April 8, 2016

Privilege feels foreign to the tongue

Once said, a bitter aftertaste left on the lips

Stripped from the records, having inexplicably escaped our vocabulary

Denying us a common language to account for our current reality

As the light overtakes the dark voices

Grabbing and pushing at their shadows like crabs in the bucket

Look here, I am king of the mountain, an All-American parable

Only to realize I was no more king than any other

False pretenses built up from broken backs and bones of so-called undesirables

In a society where white is the acceptable color

And with this recent conscience, I’m supposed to feel something like guilt

Or at least that’s what they say

Heavier than the ivory my flesh is worth when weighed

My innocence lost in turn, or was it knowledge gained?

The guilt nothing more than a self-hate trigger

A knee-jerk reaction, a mental misdirection

To shut down all meaningful acts and conversations

An emotion of mass political correction

To silence me, threaten me catatonic

With accusations against my integrity, my pride

To my people, who claim innocent of consequences past, present, and future dystopic

I feel no guilt for who I am, now and forever

No matter how many times I’m accused by the fellow hegemonic

My skin does not deserve pride, nor does the system

For whiteness isn’t a person, but an ideology gone viral

Using me to keep others down in casual manipulation

True guilt comes from conscious complicity, deliberate inaction

Keep on dreaming like a real American should be

Lying there asleep, paralyzed at the synapse by televised fantasy

As the rest of the country trembles in desperation and fear

Listen to the cries, the struggles, and the breaking points

The echoes outpouring with blood, sweat, and tears

Lives of color do matter, and I have a stake in the matter

To protect my compassion, my communities, lest I fall

Pride is found in fighting toward equality for everyone and all

My mind and body are a reminder there is work to be done

Few might call me enemy, but I’m an ally to countless more

I move, speak, and choose freely so that others might be restored

When an unstoppable discourse meets an immovable force

Only together can we break the shackles of hate and guilt

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