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Where did you learn to cross your arms, frown (not frown, unsmile), forbidding like the Nation of Islam guards I once saw break up a feel-good meeting, accusing a respectable Black councilman of luring boys in the park back when an Urban League officer joked We don’t talk about Black Power, just Dark Strength? The councilman had brought his little daughter, dressed in ruffled pink, left with her in a hurry. Your first mother and father gone, like Bruce Wayne’s. To avenge the living dead, the self- murdered living, the gone, the best revenge is living well, and boy, if I may call you boy, live well. Live long. A paper I just read says, “disarming mechanisms”… that signal warmth, humility, or deference— can lead to greater power and success among minorities by making them appear less threatening and adversarial to dominant groups. Sure, we get that, Smile, smile, smile, unfold those arms, sit (do you have to be so tall?) but be ready to jump through hoops. Say yes, sir when the officers stop you for the fourteenth time, looking for somebody lighter than you, shorter than you, or on spec: your tail-light’s cracked, you fail to maintain lane, you’re Driving While Black. Say no when somebody’s girlfriend leans into you in a bar. No, say nothing, No might offend, Yes will offend. To be safer avoid the bar, women, luxury cars, hoodies, caps—or keep them to doff to the dominant— and playful gang signs. Go out for track but don’t run cross-country. Did I tell you, you look terrific, I like the way you look? With the nerd glasses that you need to read and build with Legos, with your wide smile and as Batman too: Proud, manly, though I’d rather see you without the mask.
Copyright 2016 Arlene Weiner. From City Bird by Arlene Weiner (Ragged Sky, 2016).