“One of the Good Ones” by Shavahn Dorris-Jefferson

Shavahn Dorris-Jefferson


To their surprise, the prince was a black man—fresh
kicks, flat lips, tight crown coiled around his head.
Still, they loved him. Though everything made it

difficult. Wasn’t it an uncle who said they’re savages?
And what about the stories of how they loot and kill
then step over their dead? But thoughts of him

gave them comfort. Something they could cling to
when they weren’t clinging to their purses, something
they could hold when they weren’t violently pulling

their children away. But a prince is just a man, and a man
is just an animal cloaked in skin. That’s what I tell my son
when the prince wounds and is wounded. I cup his brown

face in my hands and say, Baby, you don’t have to be perfect,
which must be what they tell their sons when they storm
the castle, when they try to take over the world.

from Poets Respond
April 3, 2022


Shavahn Dorris-Jefferson: “The commentary, online and elsewhere, about the slap at the Oscars is troubling on many levels, but what has been most disturbing is when people suggest that Will Smith’s behavior somehow reflects badly on all black people. I read one post by a black man that said white people saw him as ‘one of the good ones,’ as if Smith took away white people’s ability to feel good about liking at least one of us. Even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar suggested that Smith’s actions were a ‘direct hit’ to the black community. It’s disheartening that many white people perpetuate the idea that black people are a monolith, but it’s even worse when black people buy into that narrative. Just recently, we’ve seen white people try to overthrow the government, and a white man just invaded another country for what seems like no reason at all. And yet we don’t say, ‘See what they did. That’s just how white people are.’ When white people behave badly, we don’t paint with such broad strokes, and we are much more forgiving.” (web)

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