Saturday, April 14, 2007

Coming Out Story

Gimme five! Two times! On the black hand side. I remember shaking hands, giving dap or some love: Slap twice rapidly but don’t take the other’s hand, take his hand, thumbs back, drop your thumbs forward close you fist around the forward fingers of his closed fist so that your fist interlock, pull back slowly bringing your middle finger and thumb together snap as you come out of the embrace. I remember shaking hands, being allowed this briefest of a caress between “Brothers.”

I remember being a brother! I was, “blood,” “Folks” “dog” “youngsta” “shawty” “mah nigga.”

I remember being a nigga too. Hunted as niggas are, I remember what it was like to be endangered! Not like I’m endangered now, but I remember what it was like to be in danger and be protected from danger. Protected by black folks, because I was “youngsta” “shorty” “Brotha” they built hide-outs along the way home from school! Underground railroad conductors waiting at Upward-bound and the Boys and Girls Club to show me the way to freedom screamed “live free or die” at little black boys like me with few other options.

Racism is harsh! But the resolve of my tribesman was stronger. We built fortresses to protect our children. We fortified there walls with our prayers and with the power within our collective voices, raised in song, that we so trustingly call “God.”

I remember being a tribesman too. I remember being jealously watched over by black women who in their gaze and as payment for their protection claimed me for their daughters, granddaughters, nieces, cousins, sisters, and themselves.

I remember being a tribesman and I remember my own gaze. Careful and suspiciously I watched and scrutinized white people, sisters and brothers who married white people, Asians, police, teachers, homosexuals and anyone else who represented the system or the “others.”

I remember leaving the tribe.

Now, blank stares on the faces of women who once claimed me as their own and now hardly recognize me and certainly do not want me for themselves, their daughters, nieces, cousins or even their sisters.

Exiled by “God” and his urban pontiff to this new Diaspora, I stand cold outside of fortresses that once kept me safe with prayers and songs and the promise of “God” and love, facing racism by myself.

Having chosen freedom over death my freedom is used against me by those who so implored me to it! The codes have been changed in the night and the path to the hide-outs buried away from my sight our children protected from me by conductors who will one day tell them to live free or die.

I am no longer “brother” “shawty” “youngsta” “dawg” “folks” “blood” “people.” The fist that once served to embrace me, in likeness and familiarity, has turned against me in a new kind of less familial caress for the briefest caress between “brothers.”

I am the “other” that I used to diligently guard against with my careful and suspicious gaze. “I” now “them,” find myself ranked beneath women who marry white men, men who marry white women, police, teachers, Asians, and even white men.

I remember leaving the tribe.

Gimme five! Two times! On the black-hand side.

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