No.105: African-American. Part II.


I'm African. Which means I'm not black.
Not black-black.
But I'm American. So I'm black. 
Hoods of Harlem type black-black. 
But "take that durag off and pull up your pants 'fore I slap you 'cause I ain't raise you like that" type-black.
Educated black, which is apparently Oreo black, 
but still next to gunshots black, 
so I guess I'm somewhere in-between,
not black-black, not white-black, 
so maybe gray-black, 
but then again,
who isn't. 

See my confusion.
See my irony. 
My African-American.
Do you not see? I am dissonantly harmonic.
Do you not agree that it's ironic
to be a dual citizen, African-American, 
amongst historically American Africans--
you are not at home, even at home, where you were born.  
You are different, apparently, somehow less and more than. 
Despite the same cocoa skin. 
As if the bullets discriminate. 
As if you did not grow up next to death.
They hunt us for sport and play it off like it's just coincidence. 
This is America.
I feel this effect,

I feel it like I feel regret when I forget
that my mental is different from the kids I grew up with
'cause even though we shared class, lockers, notes, bathrooms, showers, handcuffs, coffins, 
my kin raised me different.
I never--not once in my life, ever--thought there was even a chance
that a snowflake-skinned product of elite education and Charmin-soft suburban grit
was somehow better than me.

But it wasn't until Contemporary Black History
that I understood this wasn't everyone else's reality,
that I'd been flaunting my ambition like a true Nigerian, 
wasn't till my last semester--after four years of being a dick--that my professor asked me
if I ever wondered
why black kids are often outperformed by the children of immigrants.
He explained, my eyes dipped,
then, just like coincidence,
ol dude walked in, dressed in MOC-- 
while our beef simmered in silence--
to hand the professor his own hoodie
with the brand I dreamt to unite me and them, Men of Color, 
and the guilt twisted in me like a drill. 
The sheer irony.
The community I built to uplift
was flooded to the brim
with the tension left from my judgment--the way I doused my "high expectations" 
on generations of mental rewiring and hardship
like kerosene--
it was unnecessary, emotionally backward, counterproductive. 
You don't try to lead people you don't understand.

Problem was
it never occurred to me to think they thought any different.
But it finally made sense. The shit was staring at me in the face the whole time, my whole life: 
my disposition was built like dragon-slayer, determined, and disrespectful
because my family
is not black--
not black-black--even though I am. 
Even though I'm not. But more so than them.
Their first breath took royal oxygen from the motherland,
but my first sounds were something more like
trumpet preludes to a confused, dramatic prophecy
echoing from Bronx Hospital.
And therein
lies the confusion.

I was just a kid looking for his reflection
My people raised me well but
my dreams sounded foolish, sounded too one in a million--after all, 
there can only be so many NBA players. So many star musicians.
After all, entertainment is the white man's dominion, the black man's religion. 
And my hood gave me keys but
my dreams sounded foolish, sounded too one in a million--after all, 
you just a nigga, what makes you the next Bill Gates?
After all, wealth is the white man's game
and the cost to play are my people--
those white-skinned tombs would go to war with their country
just to keep our bodies in the name of profit.

You see, either way, I’m adopted.
I’m a runaway prophet.
Hiding my culture at school,
hiding my culture at home,
going nowhere fast ‘cause I’m
walking both paths and I’m walking too slow,
I’m tryna be a key for two different holes,
not even sure if a key is what I am —
see my confusion, 
see my irony.

There is something reckless
about belonging to too many people. 
There’s something heavy like a planet,
something dangerous ‘bout the potential
of an African-American.
It’s something like waiting on both parents to approve your decisions,
then waking up one day to find that you

have grown appropriately arrogant. And you
are done asking for permission.