What is a black man’s uniform?
Is it blue overalls and aging paint-splattered boots?
Is it baggy jeans worn nearly to the knees?
With an oversize tee and baseball cap?
Or a Fubu jacket with enough gold in your teeth
To rival your fingers and neck?
Is it the way you wear your panama and beanie,
To the side or perched on top of your head?
Check shirt tucked into your slacks, while sporting Dickies sneakers?
Or is it your Kangol cap on top of a black doek,
With your blazer slightly smeared with ochre powder
To symbolise new manhood?
It could be your Afro or kroeshare-
Your chiskop or dreadlocks,
Wrapped in a turban or loose around your face.
What about a bebop or brush-cut?
Could that be it?
Perhaps it’s the way you walk-
Dragging your foot, with that bounce in your feet-ujamzela
Or how you rub your hands leaning slightly to the side,
As if begging for alms,
When all you want is my number.
Like digits for your masculinity.
Could it be the way you recite,
“ek sê sister, ndiyak’ thanda!”
Professing love before you even know my name?
Or how you yell,
“Awe masekind- ek smaak jou my baby!”
From the back of a construction van,
Knowing I’m neither your child nor your woman?
Maybe, just maybe,
The badge of a criminal is his skin.
Your presence must be the pitch pipe to my heartbeat
Coz when you are near, it accelerates.
Sweaty palms, pumping blood, dizzy paralyses.
It’s not love its fear-
Before you know I exist or exchange a nod as strangers often do,
I’ve decided I know who you are,
Where you’ve been and
Where you will be.
Not a moment to utter your name; There’s no need,
It’s already ingrained in my adrenalin as
Danger. Threat. Criminal.
This is what binds us-
I fear you. And you are feared.
You are the canvas on which we splash our insecurities
And call it political correctness.
So on behalf of all things paranoid,
So-called man of colour- I AM SORRY.
Sorry that you carry the blame for the bad choices of some
That carry your colour and gender.
Brothers from another Mother.
If skin be Mother, this is your inheritance.
Even the boogieman wears a mask of your of your face
So we can fear you more than the darkness.
When the night departs-
We tremble at you even in the light.
Simply because your SKIN speaks LOUDER
Than your mouth.
Louder than you dreams.
Louder than your hopes.
Louder than your mind.
Louder than your love.
Louder than your hands that have signed
‘healing’ more than ‘destruction’.
Louder than your shoulders that have carried freedom.
Simply because your SKIN speaks LOUDER than your
So-called man of colour,
I can’t promise to cremate my fears in thedark.
But for the sake of a uniform that you are forced to wear-
And you do so proudly.
I am sorry.