Why You Talk So White? by Maya Wegerif

Why You Talk So White?

Street kids were chirping,
guns were out,
cops were playing in the streets…
It was a beautiful day in Harlem.
She introduced herself as Shurnell
Gum-popping, eye-rolling, weave-twirling hell
‘Why you talk so white?”

I could not answer.
My expression was the bastard child of Pissed Off and Pity’s brief sexual encounter
Why do I talk so white?
Pissed Off said smack that b*!
Let’s see if you talk that much sh* when your lip is split!
Also, when did African Americans hold a convention to decide what black is?
And why did they not mention this to the rest of the Atlas?

Pity put her hand on my arm and told me to calm down.
Shurnell. You are of a displaced people.
You are what would have happened if Moses and his peeps never left Egypt.
I mean, I had an anxiety attack just coming here for college and I know my way back.
You are the black rose that will grow on top of the concrete if that shit won’t crack!
You are a caged bird with clipped wings that still had the courage to lift,
it’s a miracle you managed to live.

But have you bought into the American dream? Did you get a discount?
Do you look back on Senegal and thank white Jesus you made it out?
Have they sold you the American dream? Did it come at a good price?
You don’t have to tell me what black people sound like
White people have spent centuries trying to fit me into stereotypes
But black on black oppression just doesn’t come in my size

I reply, yes Shurnell. I sure as hell talk white.
Because I’m speaking a white language!
Best believe there wasn’t a single black person at the meeting when the British made up
Or any of the so-called romance languages.
And if there was, they were probably serving sandwiches.
‘Cause we’re talking about the same people who called us savages

So every time. every time we speak English we talk white
Lakini afadhali mi’ naongea kiSwahili.
Mang’funa ne ‘s’Zuli ngiya s’khuluma
Ga ke rata, nkana ka bolela Sepedi
Na swona loku hi vulavula Xichangani na mhani, mi ngehi heti
Well, at least I still speak Swahili
And I can speak Zulu when I feel like it,
my Sepedi is as smooth as butter
and I can still speak Shangaan with mother.

But it’s not your fault! No, I blame the boats. I blame the coast.
I blame the tide. I blame the sea for not picking a side!
I blame bribes! I blame slave-traders AND sellout chiefs alike!
But it seems like you blame me
For being born in a former British colony
I sound white?? As opposed to what? Sounding American?
What does it matter whose oppressor is better?

Racism oppresses us all, and you know it.
We are part of a system that requires us to be inferior to make a profit.
And fighting each other makes us of it.
And so blackness fights blackness for a future that’s bright
Our end of the tunnel is so narrow, we fight each other to reach the light.

A hip-hop-blasting car let out “nigga” five times before reaching the corner.
A billboard advertising hair relaxer had the nerve to print the slogan “Love your hair!”
Street kids were chirping,
a fight broke out,
cops were playing in the streets.
Did I mention, it was a beautiful day in Harlem.

Maya Wegerif

Maya Wegerif

Maya was born in South Africa, has lived in Tanzania and now resides in the USA. She describes herself as a Spoken Word Poet. Her biggest influences are poets Iyeoka and Kgafela Oa Makgogodi. The young poet has been writing for as long as she remembers. Her writing covers a range of topics including some rather outspoken politcal views. Some of the more prevelant themes in her writing are Political, Feminist and Black conscious. A die-hard Afr(i can)ist Maya believes that “Afrika for Afrika is the order of the day.”

see also http://mayathepoet.com/


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