August 11, 2013 by Dara Mathis
Dear Carlton Banks,
Chocolate child of the original Aunt Viv, you danced with fire at your fingertips and so they called you uncool.
I am like you. Conventional rhythm has long eluded me. My grinding is robotic, disjointed where my hips meet my butt. I pop-lock when trying to Tootsie Roll. I was Miley Cyrus before she discovered she was black.
We know: it is the greatest sin against blackness to dance like a white person.
You are the brother everyone expects to marry white because no black woman will have you. Earnest, you wear your heart on your button down sleeves. But they will pickpocket your Black Card from the back of your chinos for it. They will call you cornball and ridicule your dialect, instigate McCarthyist witch hunts into your politics. They will Uncle Tom you into the beat of their drum.
Lover of Barry Manilow and Tom Jones: it’s not unusual for you to be hated for knowing the mainstream Top 40 and not the Top 10 Rap Lyricists.
You are the answer key for tests they will fail.
You are the cheap laugh track at the end of the scene.
You are the punchline for body blows disguised as jokes, bruised inside out.
You don bow ties instead of polos and Christmas sweaters in July that have the nerve not to be Coogi.
The police pull you over even though you speak their language of ‘Sirs’ and unclipped consonants. But your skin is more than a brown blanket for hidden white flesh. I hear odes to the Bantu in your baritone.
I see you, a native son who dares to not wear the mask in the face of ridicule. Let no one strip you of your blackness til you bleed. Claim yourself when they say you are too white to be black and too black to be white. Do not cower, square peg of a black man, into their carved round hole.
And yes, brother, dance with your own rhythm; for as long as you hear the drums, Africa will always claim you.
a square black girl