One of the many highlights of our recent Black History Month all-school assembly was hearing ninth grader Cynthia Guerrier of Cambridge perform her powerful spoken word poem, “American?” Please watch the video. The text is below.
American? By Cynthia Guerrier, 9th grade
I’m tired…of the weight of my struggles at home.
I find it hard to live in a country where I do not feel accepted.
I fail to understand when my friends and my family say, “Oh yeah, I’m an American,” as easily as they breathe —
When I have to pause and ponder about all the discrimination I’ve lived through in my 15-year life, and then say, “Um, I’m…I’m…I’m… an American?” with a question mark at the end, like I do not know where I was born and raised.
I remember a time when color had no meaning to me. I would look at everyone, not with my eyes but with my heart.
But then I realized that people do not see the same way as children do.
Quickly I’ve encountered stereotypes like, “All blacks have at least one family member in jail.”
Um, well, I do have that one cousin and that one uncle… but I thought that was just a coincidence.
And then there’s, “All blacks do drugs.”
Well, I know that in reality both whites and blacks do it, it’s just that the blacks get blamed for it.
And then there’s, “Black girls are so loud and ratchet.”
Well, I did not think I was that ratchet, but we have to be loud because America is not listening to us.
I am sick of hearing that blacks in America will soon have better days and laws will change.
Well, how about trying to say that to Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant – and the list goes on.
Has America forgotten about all the children it’s murdered?
These days and these laws are way overdue.
Tupac taught me that in order to have a better community, we must first work on ourselves.
But did you know that for every 4 white people who are unemployed, there are twice as many black people who are unemployed?
And did you know that in 2010 for every white man’s dollar, a black man received 75 cents?
So, I can’t even get a job to start working on myself, and then when I finally do I don’t get as much as I deserve.
And then people have the nerve to call me lazy!
I am not what you think I am.
Judge me by my character. My skin complexion is just color my body produces naturally.
I feel as if I was born into a slavery – a slavery of discrimination.
As I walk through stores, I feel as if it’s expected for my hands to go up in surrender: “All hail master, all hail master.”
No. My hands will stay in my pockets and my hood will stay on my head.
Do I look sketchy to you, or are you just prejudiced? There is a difference.
And excuse me for my attitude and my lack of patience, but I see so many beautiful black children every day, and I want to cry for them. Because the road ahead of them consists of a war that no one is able to prepare them for.
I’m sorry for the ignorance of this country, but I am not sorry for my frustration or my aggravation.
I am a black Haitian, born and raised in America, but I cannot represent this country.
I cannot say that I’m American.