Where does inspiration lie? Everywhere!

This is my attempt to pounce on and then shape the words I breathe.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Have a Heart: a poem about Racism

Why don't I write poems about racism?  It's hard and it takes courage and other impetuses like rage and loss.  Which I have, and which now are surging.  So this is a beginning to a cycle.  It is itself a circular poem: when you get to the end, start again at the beginning.


Have a Heart

My heart developed abnormalities
absorbing years of antidepressants.
HahahaHA!  having absorbed years of
antidepressants, my heart’s abnormal!

I am in the USA privileged
classes.  And now no reason remains not 
to address class ism and race ism.  
Does reason exist?  Reasons don’t exist.

Neither in my heart nor yours.  Take courage.
Courage: from the Latin cor meaning heart.
Heartache follows.  I don’t choose sadness
and outrage, they chose me as whiteness did.

Choose me!  I called out again and again
while growing up a poor white Jewish girl
too dumb to notice everyone’s pity.
So poor that poor victims befriended me.

Why didn't you tell me that she was black?
I just thought she was beautiful, my friend,
name begins with an M, we jump rope and
whisper and giggle while boys call Heifers!

And that was that.  Discovering systems
that separated and divided  in
binary codes has taken my whole life
and double that to dis-empower them:

boy and girl, adult and child, rich and poor,
white and black, white and color, suburb and
city, city and country, teacher and
student, English speaking and not English

educated and uneducated—
where I jumped all class expectations with
the help of sixty thousand plus dollars
accumulated school loans, I paid off

though it took thirty-five years privilege—
white privilegeto be eligible
for loans, lower-priced housing in pretty
neighborhoods, loan extensions, credit, jobs

though it took forty five years to learn how
to say no and took trial and error
to become part of community—I’m
human now with a heart worth living.

Have a heart is a meaningful statement
to those of us who are healing our scars 
from race ism and class ism and who 
make dismantling both our privilege.  





Posted at Poets United   Poetry Pantry # 215



Copyright © 2014  S.L.Chast



36 comments:

  1. Dear Poet Courage to take up difficult and controversial topics for poetry is manifest here.Racism had diminished and should have ended but seems to have made a revival on the social scene. It is not anyone's fault to be born with a different shade of skin thus it becomes a matter of Human Rights-Each person is to be respected and treated equally but acceptance and tolerance is shaken in diversity.I believe Racism can be removed by education. 'The heart has its reasons' Love and Faith made Prophet Ibraheem jump in the fire prepared by King Nimrod and the 'Fire turned to flowers' a related poem..at... http://poeticoceans.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/nor-pride-in-fires-of-violence/

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    1. When things happen like a white officer killing an unarmed black man, the evil buried in the heart of our systems is visible and the education begins again. But we need changes too. We need changes more. I want that white man to be convicted for murder though I know he's only a symptom of a larger disease. And I know the heart of racism will defend him, and not even want to scapegoat even one of the police force. Maybe if he admitted his crime (jumped in the fire) the evil would turn into good.

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  2. Susan, it sounds as if you have striven to fight racism and classism on many different levels. Awareness, which you have expressed so well, is key.

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    1. Yes, and yes. Thank you. It's horrible what it takes to make us all aware something was smoldering but not gone.

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  3. very few are privileged to be born with a Heart though in the end they will rule hopefully...

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    1. Would you want to rule? Not me, though maybe together ...

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  4. Interesting poem. Lot to think about. Race class privilege. Just had a discussion about this topic at lunch this afternoon.
    Frankly the ethic that all men are equal regardless of race and class and deserve the same opportunities is the tenet by which we all should live. However we never have. The world has never achieved this goal.There have been inroads of success and progress but a just world does not take into account the very flawed nature of mankind. There is a pecking order in the jungle.The rich and the powerful make the rules. We still seem to be operating at the basic instinct level. Good post.

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  5. The way we divide and classify are just blinds that prevent us from see a human. Races are nonexistent among humans have been proved scientifically.. But we chose to divide for simplicity and fear.. I think we just have to remove those glasses and see..

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    1. Yes, take off the glasses! Once we are each aware we are wearing them. Thanks fort the neat reference to a previous poem.

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  6. Racism is a tool to beat back fear of reprisal for wrongs committed. It is rampant still. Dismantling the isms will take such a long time as it lurks silently even in my country.

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    1. That's a new thought for me. Perhaps you are right, that it's a kind of stubbornness, like a bully has.

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  7. i remember being a child and an elderly black man walked in...and people gasped...and that was the first time i noticed a difference...

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    1. My first time in an all black space made me take notice again and finally. I felt I might be in the wrong place. I was in the right place. I just had never known what that might feel like to be a person of color surrounded by whiteness.

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  8. Hmm, I thought I commented on this poem last night; but I guess I didn't. I think we all have to do our part to fight racism. Actually though I think that a lot of youngsters growing up today don't 'see' color and 'play' with everyone equally. I hope this continues into adulthood.

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    1. I felt that in the high school I taught in--which was truly multicultural and not more heavily waited to White or to Black. Students were experiencing the unraveling of their preconceived notions and findingthemselves sharing power and playing equally, as you said. BTW--I approve all comments, so if I turn off the computer or go to bed early and get up late, you'll experience a delay in seeing your comment.

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  9. I like this - Have a heart ~ Its a long journey to find one and sustain it when all around us there is racism and classism ~I never knew about these issues until we migrated to Canada 9 years ago ~ Though we are multi-cultural community here, there is always a lining separating those with privileges and those without ~ I am learning and surviving ~

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    1. That is very interesting--to have experienced a place where racism and classism did not separate. Canada and the USA are more alike than I thought. It's a long journey to stay aware and change the air we breathe and survive, but it is a lovely one in the end because we are enriched in the widened circle.

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  10. A powerful piece, Susan. Unfortunately, racism and classism still exist though we have made some strides. I like how you inject a personal touch ~ slices of your life ~ it's when we witness or experience prejudice first hand that we really begin to understand it and hopefully make a difference. Love "cor" for heart as the root for courage.

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    1. Thanks for the look into style. I'm trying to make myself more vulnerable in my poetry so it can tough a few hearts.

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  11. Susan - such a powerful and thoughtful poem - so many times - it is the voice of the poet that changes hearts - K

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  12. great piece! nice that you addressed this issue that continues to this day. Hi Susan, I'm back!!! :)

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  13. Susan I so relate to this piece and to the you in this piece--really an excellent write!

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  14. powerful piece susan! i do think it takes a lot of courage to bring up such a topic... and ure right maybe rage... but its not anger that will destroy racism .. it is our own initiative.. our ability to look deeper in a persons heart than the skin.. racism is a crime if nothing else.. i hope that some day all of us treat all of us as humans..

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  15. You have addressed difficult and complex issues. I believe you can teach a child not to be racist, at home first then at school. Classism is more difficult to address since it can be very subtle.

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    1. I think much of what we call racism starts as classism and then is simplified to skin color and difference.

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  16. A powerful write Susan..a poem with a big voice that needs to be heard.

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  17. Well...it's always up to us to talk about vibrant topics, or not....Talk about racism - very powerful! Once I attended the teacher meeting where we faced the fact that we are all less or more Racists... the speaker was a black teacher, an activist, ...I saw how many of people voted to support his positive ideas. ..will it change their point of view tomorrow, where we every day compete, depended on material values?...~ You never said where is the end of you powerful poem, so I was reading 1.5-2 times your poem...Glad, you expressed this urge, feel your relief....good for you! My respect and hugs :)xx

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    1. Perhaps it just doesn't end, it's a lifelong process with some plateaus. Like the workshop, or the passing of a law. But those "tomorrows"--the minute we stop being vigilant, what hasn't been destroyed rises again. Thanks for the hug. I fear my main work is in the poetry itself.

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  18. The divide and classification pricks our heart...
    But, how can we change it?

    By choosing to ignore, may be...

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