First Lesson in Racism — Mississippi — 1993

by Claire Collins


here are yr. five year old fingers
plucking pecans in front of the trailer

here is the lynch rope looming from your favorite tree
here you are
too afraid to ask what it means

here is the yellow bus/black exhaust/cardboard milk carton

carrying you to kindergarten

here you are singing, “M I crooked letter, crooked letter I. . . ”

here are blue jump ropes/doubled up

here are girls with braids and bright beads bouncing

here is yr. anxious five year old hand-holding yr. waist length hair in yr. fist

wishing for braids
asking to play
double dutch

maybe they will like you
maybe they will braid your hair like theirs

here is a welcoming smile
hear feet      hear skipping

pavement and jump and rhyme
for the first time

here you are, thrumming, alive.

and then an angry fist

        here is a black eye

delivered by a white fist

for not knowing better

than to play with the colored kids.

Claire Collins is currently lead educator for Louder Than A Bomb Tulsa, an educational organization that works to bring students together through poetry. Originally published in This Land, Vol. 5 Issue 4. Feb. 15, 2014.