• Jafei Pollitt

White

Today I saw a young, Black woman on the side of Colfax.

She had a posterboard sign with big green words on it.

“Stranded. Short $25 dollars for the Greyhound Bus.”

She had a backpack, clean clothes, and her eyes held in shock

to what was happening before her.

Nobody stopped to help out in their shiny Subarus and SUV’s.

She wasn’t a regular to sitting in the 100-degree weather.

She wasn’t the kind of person you would normally see by the sides of cars.

She was honestly just trying to get back home.

And while I sat two cars away reading her sign

and hesitantly meeting her eyes,

I realized she is first-hand seeing America

for its true, impure, color:

White.

She looked at me with a simple, easy plead.

“It’s only this time. I just need to get back home, please.”

And yet I didn’t budge. I didn’t turn on my hazards and sit with her

to ask if she wanted to get out of the heat

while I could have gone to an ATM

and gave her all my cash

meant for cheap expenses like food and beauty products.

I had some to give. And I didn’t give any.

What in my right mind was wrong with me?

What in my right mind thought she would survive and be okay?

Would someone else come along and give a lending hand?

That’s what I thought. Someone else would take care of it.

I could sit in my air-conditioned car and drive home.

Safe and sound.

She watched the withering of the American tree

while I hid under it’s failing shade.

Thought to be strong with robust, individual leaves.

Thought to have branches wafting out in all directions,

with a base so sturdy no wind or saw could tarnish

its good name.

But the rings were laced with a history so gruesome,

so unimaginable and bloody,

that it drenched the hope for the leaves who were darker greens with

different edges.

Since when did we become so numb to others need for help?

Since when did I think it was okay to keep driving

and not stop for this woman of color?

Who tried to stand up strong

with a face turned to wipe away tears before they

dribbled down her cheeks, mixing with the sweat.

I’ve been raised in a strong household

with a white backdrop and blinded eyes.

And now I am out of my safe-holding

seeing the dissipation of my blurry vision.

It’s not right.

There are few things that can be categorized as such.

There is wrong and there is right.

No gray area to hide our shame away in.

It was wrong.

It is wrong.

To think that we can create this magnificent life

by bearing all the weight on soil

meant for a true nation to grow.

We have done no such thing.

We hacked our hole and planted a seed.

Creating havock for the Bloodroot

and chicory flowers.

We took our water from another land.

We forced others to watch over it.

We made sure leaves of certain types

didn’t mingle with the ones at the top of the tree.

The ones who got the most sunlight,

the most rain.

As we continue to try and categorize

our tree,

we will see the efforts of nature fail us.

You simply cannot let some of a plant prosper.

It has to grow in a continuum.

In a single rhythm with every part playing.

Or else it will die.

I went back to the cracked, concrete corner

to see if she was still there.

An empty air held her spot while I searched for her

along another street.

Someone else had taken her in.

Had given her the simple thing she desperately needed.

Another stranger had seen

that her leaf was about to fall.

Drift into the standard grass.

They picked up what they could of the drooping branch,

but its weight was so much larger than just one hand.

I’ve realized my goal was accomplished.

Someone else took care of it.

But the heaviness of my neglect to give;

that is something for taking

and never letting out of my sight again.

I will promise to hold up all parts of this tree that I can

And in no way will I be able to do it alone,

but I trust the impact this will have on the others.

The others that will also start to dispatch

from our community up top

because we’ve let so much underneath begin to rot.

We’ve saturated ourselves deep into the roots of racism.

This country seems like it will never heal,

but the country has already flourished

with many riding on it’s declared safety.

So let’s make right of our wrongs.

Let’s unburden this tree of the uneven.

Slowly, let it rebuild to a tower of honorable doing.

We can never take out its long held past,

but we will do everything to make right by it.

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