I’ve always wondered, what it’s like, to be black, in America,
But if I was asked what it was like to be white in America,
Who am I to answer, even though I am one?
Race is the wrong word, too narrow, too one-thing,
For too many millions of people, and no two alike…
Instead of race, let’s call it Culture,
But even then, culture isn’t one thing…
In my culture, white America,
I don’t feel very We, I feel very Only.
I figure it must be that way,
Over there, too, in all the other cultures.
White people, aren’t 1 thing, 2 things, 10 things, 100 things,
We’re different, by the where-you-from,
Different by the when-you-were-born,
There’s a boy version, and a girl version,
Every birthday, same name, but not the same person.
It matters who raised you, what their values were,
It matters who your community was,
What it stood for, what it allowed, and what got rebuke.
Every single one of us is an Only.
Me, only, it’s not lonely, it’s only,
The way life really works.
Only I have my did-rights, and my did-wrongs.
The plus against the minus, the math is only mine.
I’m nothing like my brother, nothing like my sister,
I’m nothing like my father, nothing like my mother,
And they’d all agree, say the same about themselves.
And if I’m nothing like blood, how can I be anything like non?
I’ve been ambitious, also lazy,
Been straight arrow, but up to sneaky doings after midnight.
I’ve been certain of things, then got myself uncertain,
Gone from Here to There, now back, place called Between.
As for future, no prophecy, just a general aim,
To walk in the light, as I see the light.
I don’t know what its like to be black in America,
But I imagine it deserves a bigger word than Complicated.
As for talking to “Them,” (and all the variations of Them),
I don’t know what to ask, who to ask, how to ask, if to ask,
Or just do like I’ve been doing,
Just a white boy playing it safe, silent, in a game that feels
All risk and no-win, and no end in sight…
This, this equal thing, this fair thing,
This Do-Unto-Others thing,
If God be for it, who isn’t for it?
It’s good for America, good for the world,
Good for morality, good for business,
Good for now, good for the future.
Higher than democracy, is meritocracy,
Something dear to the American soul,
Because we all descend from alley cats and junkyard dogs,
We’re okay with that, as long, as we’re not stuck with our past.
We don’t get the same vehicle,
We don’t start at the same mile marker,
– ain’t gonna happen – not even in the same family! –
But we should get the same access to the highway.
And the law for one should be the law for all.
Let the talents decide, let effort decide,
Let character decide, let it shake out, prove out,
Not in sprint, but in marathon,
All God’s children, with an eye on the same prize,
One day, when this is over,
Meeting our Maker, and hearing these words,
Well done, good and faithful…
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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is dedicated to the proposition that complexity appears in the shape of a rounded knot, but inside, somewhere, it has a spine. Find it, let it straighten, let it reveal top from bottom, and build simplicity from there. Uncle P can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.