for Arthur De Gobineau
This moment in history is my chance
to have my say.
It is brilliant to hate blacks,
When I write about the cultural
habits of the latter, I sometimes wonder
how it would feel
to touch their glossy black hair like
corn silk without kink or curl.
Under my fingertips this secret joy
to know what I could have been.
No drop of blood to carry weight
in my hair and features, undetected
like the threat
my cousin whispered
when I was still a boy and quick to anger.
Imagine, he said, if your maman was black,
the words like a curse whispered
into my ear, a taunt that made me wonder
about the origins of man.
A French woman, my mother
so delicately boned
she could never harbor
the taint of the enemy
whose story I tell
because it is my right,
not a clever ploy
to hide my own racial doubt.
*Arthur De Gobineau was a nineteenthcentury race theorist whose racist perspectives have influenced generations.
Artress Bethany White is a poet. She earned a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, an M.A. in Creative Writing from New York University, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Kentucky. Her poetry has appeared in Harvard Review, Appalachian Journal, Black Renaissance Noire, and MELUS as well as other anthologies and literary journals.
One thought on “Hiding the Truth © by Bethany White”
This is powerful because when you are both black and white there’s a different struggle. You have to sides to be or do you need to chose? I love the duality of this poem.