A strident reminder of our country’s long argument with itself, this poem hits home after a day that began with Cory Booker’s presidential announcement and ended with Ralph Northam’s apology. His surely upcoming resignation may gratify our anger and disbelief, but we must not pretend it solves anything. Structural racism still plagues our country, a birth wound that never heals because we pretend all that blood, the scraped flesh and unrelenting pain is normal, inevitable, acceptable.
I was shocked when I moved to Virginia and learned that the rebel flag flew over a local city hall until the mid-1990s. Learning how segregation affected every part of life here from the schools to the churches during my own lifetime made me realize that it’s horrid legacy still lives. It compelled me to dedicate time to introspection, education and action.
I’ve always admired Langston Highly and his work inspired me to write poetry. His poems sing with clarity through their imagery, but they are not enough. Words can point us toward our shared dreams, but only hard work will lead us through the darkness to that great, shining land of liberty and justice for all.