They laughed when he fell down, or when his shirt was torn, or when he wore no shoes or socks, or when his haircut was different from the rest. And he was embarrassed. Because He didn't understand why.
They laughed when monosyllabic words became stuttering redundacies. And they said he talked funny. And he was embarrassed. Because he did.
They enjoyed calling him names like skinny, slim, and bony. And they said the wind could blow him over. And he was embarrassed. Because they had said it.
They repeatedly asked him where he came from and laughed when he answered. And they said: "where is that? It must be a very small place". And he was embarrassed. Because it was.
Through it all, he smiled a lot and said hello to strangers because he felt happy. And they ridiculed him and said he was immature and acted like a country boy. And he was embarrassed. Because being a country boy was an embarrassment.
Some people spat and cursed when they saw him. They taunted him and called him names like darky, jungle bunny, and nigger. And sometimes a laughing carload of them would run him off the road and the sandspurs would penetrate his bare feet. And he was embarrassed. Because he was afraid.
Once he dreamed as he slept and the dream made him look back over all the years. And he struggled to wake up. Because the dream was painful. But the dream would not be ignored. Because it was time for truth. He had lived too long with a lie.
And he saw embarrassment for the weight it was. A self defeating, irrlevant feeling. An apology for not wanting to hurt anyone. An apology for being. A rejection of himself. A suicidal ploy designed by fools, politicians, and social manipulators who knew what they were doing. The end result of a human conspiracy that stripped him of his defenses and immobilized his aggression. The consummation of a trick employed by racists who did their best to make him believe that he and people like him were zeros. Nothing.
And the knowledge of his embarrassment chronology made him want to cry. But he was embarrassed. So he became angry instead. And the dream left him. Sleep released him. And he felt strange in the darkness. Because he felt free.
And they laughed when he fell down or when his shirt was torn or when he wore no shoes or socks or when his haircut was different from the rest. So with a stutter he mouthed a very long profanity, even when he was afraid. Because it made him feel free. Because it wasn't an apology. And soon he stopped falling and he wore whatever he liked. And he stopped cutting his hair.
And they laughed when a simple word became a stuttering redundancy. So with a stutter he mouthed the longest profanity the world had ever heard. And he smiled. Because the stuttering stopped. And he wasn't afraid anymore.
And they enjoyed callling him names like skinny, slim, and bony. And they said the wind might blow him away. And he didn't care anymore. Because being skinny neither defined nor negate him. And his flesh grew, filling him out lean and hard. Because he was meant to be beautiful.
And they asked him from whence he came. So he answered quickly. Beat them at asking their silly questions and refused to defer to their laughter. Because from whence he came wasn't important.
And he forgot to smile a lot and replaced the soft lines with hard lines because he had grown hostile and bitter. So people and things avoided him and wouldn't converse with him. Because his words cut deep and made his lips form a cruel smile. So they said he was crazy. And he laughed. Because maybe he was.
And they said his ancesters were black savages, ignorant, lewd, unskilled, lazy, and immoral. And he said bullshit. No more lies. Because he had cloaked himself with the truth. And he held his head up. Because Black was beautiful. And he was Black. Not a darky or a nigger, or even a Negro anymore. Black! And he raised a brown fist. Because the movement had ended , but the fight had just begun.
And they pointed their fingers at a stranger whose complexion was darker, like his. And they laughed when the stranger stumbled in a hate filled place. So he reached out, gave the stranger his hand, and refused to be embarrassed. And he felt good. Because the stranger smiled. And the laughter stopped. Or when it didn't it was forced and fake. Because the trick was over.
And he felt a sense of euphoria. Because he realized the stranger could have cursed him. The laughter could have grown to a crescendo. And he wouldn't hav cared. Because embarrassment was a sickness. And he wasn't sick.
And he participated in desegregation. Because it was the thing to do. Because that is what the movement had been about. So they pretended to accept him and tried to make him a house nigger. But he refused. so they said he was too sensitive and that he sometimes hurt the feelings of good white people. And he flinched. Because it was sometimes true. But he hurt, too. Because he let them catch him off guard. So he sometimes hurt the feelings of good white people. Because he couldn't afford not to.
And he used his power when he had it. And faked it when he didn't. And learned how to control. So they rebuked him and called him a powermonger. And he was amused. Because a powermonger was nothing. Any body could be one, and often is at one time or another. But he was destined to be more. and they wished they could change him. Because they knew it.
And he watched them with a Mona Lisa smile transformed onto his ugly beautiful face and prepared for the day:
When he would sing.
When he would lead.
When he would play.
But wouldn't plead.
When he would be king.
Or a small black god.