Sticky Back Labels

He told me I was the blackest white man he had ever met
Because I listened to reggae?
Or danced to the hip-hop beat?
A nice idea, perhaps he thought,
Put blackness in a package?
I think he bought his stereotyped ideas,
When he tried to lose his cultural baggage.

“Oh, individuality. Don’t bother me with that,
I’ve got this definition, it came free with my flat:
Reggae music, pidgin English and wearing baggy jeans.
Never working, always dancing. Always super cool.”

Your definition, I think you’ll find, is incredibly flawed,
But don’t mind me. Carry on. I’m used to being ignored.
But how could I be the blackest white man he had ever met?
He told me underneath this thin skin, hides another man.
Another man, a different man. A different, non-white man.

You define and you stereotype,
But do you ever face the truth?
Define to me my blackness.
Define to me my whiteness.
I cannot feel blackness.
I do not feel whiteness.

The world passes me by and I cannot get on board.
He said I was the blackest white man he had ever met.
Had he sensed discomfort in my narrow, white life?
Was he giving me the shiny key to help me to escape?
I don’t believe him. What he said. I don’t believe at all.
What I do, or what I read, does not define who I am.

I read Martin Luther King,
But does that define who I am?
I listen to Lucky Dube,
Does anyone give a damn?
I criticize the racists,
But does that define who I am?
I dance to hip-hop music,
And who can give a damn?

You have trouble defining me,
Sticking a label on my face.
I’m not like all the others, you say.
Oh good, let’s all face the truth.
I’m not like all the others?
Well, alone, is all I feel.
I’m not like all the others?
Alone is all I feel.

Prove to me your theory:
That I am not so sugar white.
But I will tell you my theory:
My blackness is just my guilt,
A legacy of this society,
I am born to live in guilt.
Let this blackness hide reality,
Hide the colour of my skin.
Let me speak in pidgin,
You know the kind of thing.

Hide my guilty conscience,
That society has given to me.
Praise Nelson Mandela,
Buy the Bob Marley CD,
And get that shiny badge:
“I understand completely”

Yeah right? I understand?
I understand nothing.
You think I understand your feelings?
Barely understand my own.

The individual in me, cries out,
My mind is not like yours.
That is the reason. My reason, why
Why I don’t believe your definitions:
The black experience?

For my mind is not like your’s.
So your mind is not like mine.
And your’s is different from the next man’s.
So why do you define?

It would cheer me up, perhaps he thought,
When he told me he thought I was black.
Because I look so miserable in my own birth skin.
Or perhaps he thought it would give me a lift,
When he told me that I am not really white.
After all, why blame him? All that regret.
And all that remorse. Lift it off. Yes lift it up.
Take the burden from my shoulders.
Lift it away and off.
Tell me that it was all a dream,
My skin has his pigments too.

Do you still think I am the blackest white man you have ever met?
Define me and my manner. Define who I am.
Oh look, there’s another thing.
Tell me that I am black. Then the jokes won’t hurt so much.
When they slip down off your tongue.
I am sure the reverse is true.
I’ve heard the racist jokes,
And the white man ends and says,
“Oh, sorry my friend, I don’t mean you.”
“Well that’s what I’d expect from a white man,
No offence, of course, Tim!”

No offence? Define me.
Categorize who I am. Put me on a shelf.

I knew they would come in useful.
These little sticky back labels.
Peel it back and stick it on.
Define me as the white man who isn’t really white.
Justify your criticism: He does not care.
He understands me. He knows how I feel.
Yeah right? Sure.
How can I understand you, if you do not speak to me?

But why don’t I just accept it? What you think of me.
I’ll keep your definition? Let you define me?

I don’t believe in labels,
And careful little packages.
If you define me, maybe I will define you.
Your life, your ambitions, your pride and your prejudice?
Are they the same as your father’s? Or your sister’s?
Your brother’s or your aunt’s?
Can you be defined? Can I be defined?

He turned to me and laughed. And said,
You’re the most ungrateful little loser I have ever met.
Well lucky me, there’s the truth.
The label was a gift.

One thought on “Sticky Back Labels

  1. salams,Just surfing some blogs and came accross yours, found this writing to be absolutely beautiful, reminding myself that, “No arab is superior to a non-Arab” An understanding of Tawhid by Imam Ghazali (Ra)“Tawhid is to believe firmly that all things come from the Cause of all causes, with no attention to the secondary causes but to the First Cause. It is not to look to the means or intermediaries but to the original and primary cause. It is that all causes come from Him and that everything is within His control and power. It is that everything is subject to His will and nothing as got any will of its own. If one has sure faith in this Tawhid, his wrath on others, hatred for others and jealousy for others vanish away and His will remains supreme in his mind”…wassalam


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