“Self-Selection for Preservation” by Jasmin Roberts

Jasmin Roberts


My grandmother will tell you that
she does not like white people,
does not look them in the eye.

W.E.B. Du Bois coined the term double consciousness in 1903.
It refers to the psychological experience of viewing oneself
through the lens of a racist white society.

He meant that to grow up black in America
is to be baptized in internalized racism,
to bathe in the waters of white supremacy
in hopes of ever feeling clean and black at the same time.

Earnestine lived her entire childhood
in a          segregated south.
She does not like white people
because you cannot un-know
a system that writes your birth certificate
and eulogy
on the same day,
cannot blame a monster and not its creator,
absolve those who
show up to the lynchings
with picnic baskets,
and then avert their eyes
to preserve their appetites.

My grandmother thinks my brother’s white wife is       silly
for the way she lusts after a table
with a black man at the head
and tries to call it home.
Just the way white babies
buried their faces in their mamie’s bosom
long after they knew better,
long after mamie stopped being able
to look them in the eye.
My grandmother does not look
White people in the eye
not because she fears them,
but because she has no desire
to see herself

from Rattle #66, Winter 2019


Jasmin Roberts: “My favorite toy as a child was Legos. I loved the way I could command all of the colors and shapes into a world I understood, a world where others understood me. I write because words are Legos, and I hope that if I put the pieces together just so, for a moment, someone might hear me.”

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