My Only Sin Is In My Skin

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My Lord, I’m shaking my watch and double-checking the calendar. The dateline reads 2016, but the headlines sound 1960s mean. I’m expecting to see pictures of firehoses or German shepherds snapping at crotches. Many say bear it and grin, but it’s so hard when my Black skin is my sin.

Louis Armstrong sang in an old blues song

I’m hurt inside, but that don’t help my case
Cause I can’t hide what is on my face
How will it end? Ain’t got a friend
My only sin is in my skin
What did I do to be so black and blue?

Old Glory’s blue is of a different hue from the blue I feel when protect and serve feels too often like pursue and kill. The red of its stripes mocks the red of oppressed blood spilled to atone for the white stripes of the dominant paradigm composed of the debris of so much white material. And they wonder why Colin kneels. Glory, glory Hallelujah only when we lay that burden down.

They say resistance is futile. Don’t y’all know that by and by, when your mourning is done, Amen! it will be. Why won’t y’all just yield to the “truth” of an enduring lie and submit to a siren song to which y’all is a footnote but can never belong? Why won’t Rosa stand and yield a seat to the man? Don’t they understand the working of the greater Master plan? Nebuchadnezzar has decreed it. Read it, heed it, or else you’ll be weeded.

Emmett had to die to preserve blinded eye. Medgar had to be shot down less ties be unbound. Four little girls on the altar, death’s hand did not falter. No ram in the thicket to save the innocent on the altar of the wicked. Sandra had rights. But, from Black mouths, tongues and shredded, rights is fights to white hearing filtered by fears. Tamir was a man-child to be broken as much too wild. Hands up!! Terence down. How high is high enough to save a body from a round?

Sadly, there is nothing new under the sun. Charles Chesnutt’s 1882 lament (“The Perplexed Nigger”) is still much too true today.

And it’s right good American logic –
Indeed, it’s the general belief,
When a nigger can’t prove himself honest,
He certainly must be a thief –

And Ida B. Wells, exiled from Memphis, prophetically declared that lynching and death serve the interests of the dominant paradigm by protecting against the Negro “getting out of his place.” Black lives, being marginal to the narrative of the paradigm, are not protected or served. Thus, any harm befalling them is harm deserved. Dear God, who will save us from this body of death!?

O Lord, the blood of Abel cries out from the ground. Stand, draw near, and hear this anguished sound. How long O Lord, how long will they shoot your people down? My only sin is in my skin. What did I do to be so black and blue? No, we cannot continue to stand, nor can we wait. O God, give us strength and courage to make the crooked way straight.

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