by Kellen Gaither
I was born with a red X on my back. When I opened my eyes for the first time, I was convicted of a crime I had yet to commit. I grew to fit the stereotypical mold and when I broke out of that mold, I was told to fall back in line, back in line with the convicts, and the drug dealers, and the baby mamas, and the Black people who live where the rats and cockroaches have their young. I am young, yet my future is already determined not by God or Allah but by the society I never asked to be a part of. I am set apart from my white peers who spend their weekends with palm trees and sand. I am inside with the palms of my hands on the table, fingers spread, chin up, music down, license out. Don’t fight, don’t move, they’ll get scared, don’t talk back, don’t look around. The trained professionals will get scared. They’ll react, you shouldn’t. My mom sits across from me, and I can tell she’s fighting back tears. I don’t understand. I’m only sixteen, just got my license today but I don’t understand. She tells me, “Baby girl, it’s bound to happen. You just have to know what to do—” I ask, “But what if I did nothing wrong?” I am interrupted. She tells me, “That doesn’t matter, just remember what I tell you now.” I was born with a red X on my back. My face is too threatening, my skin is too dark for comfort, my voice is too strong, and it scares them.
Kellen Gaither – Featured Poet – is a junior from Cincinnati, Ohio. She is a psychology major with a minor in gender, sexuality, and women’s studies who is also working on her prerequisites for occupational therapy. Beautiful Black Boy, Businessman, Cantu Bantu, The Hood Isn’t Even Ours Anymore, I Can Feel It, Not Allowed to Hurt