I Keep My Arms Crossed

America the what?


You said, America,

The great.

You see, I misheard you,

For the words America and great

Are soundless on my eardrums

And tasteless on my tongue,

They vibrate and pull

The air from my lungs.


You say equality and I squint,

Blinded as I am by the

Neverending newsprint

Of violence, of hatred

Against people who supposedly don’t match

The all-American blueprint.


You say freedom and I cackle,

As more burning mosques

Appear on the news

And people forget what happened with the Jews,

And while I look in my history textbook

At thousands of black men

In shackles.


I can only shudder as I look back on all that I have to call

My “history,”

The barely 200-year-old lie,

How even the best people of our school books

Had slaves and held racist beliefs as they wrote words like

“All men are created equal.”

Equal? What does equal mean to them?

It doesn’t mean the same to me,



(We are not equal yet)


And for some reason my skin relatives are blind

To the beauties and wonders of the world’s cultures

Rich with diversity and flavors and song

They only see it as different.

And I want to scream that

Their “different” is better than anything I can profess,

No magnificent ancient customs am I allowed to claim;

Instead my shadow is stamped with the shame

Of imperialism and racism and damned Manifest Destiny,

The Confederacy and the KKK and Big Stick Diplomacy.

Sexism and white supremacy with the occasional gem

Like John Muir or Susan B. Anthony

But I’m sure something terrible about them

Will be revealed too,

In time.


This is my country,

And I hate it.


I don’t stand for the National Anthem.

I don’t face the flag.

I keep my arms crossed over my chest.

  And I will keep them crossed until that National Anthem rings true in my ears. 


This poem is about: 
My country
Our world
Poetry Terms Demonstrated: 


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