We live in “modern times” but racism never seems to change.


We may live in “modern times”, but racism never seems to change.

Check out this article on modern-day racism: HERE!

In 2005 I published a controversial poem entitled “Modern Times and the Old Negro”. The poem was (and still is) controversial because it speaks to how easily we get used to the status quo and eventually see it as a comfort — despite it not being to our advantage.

Modern Times and the Old Negro

I remembers one hot ‘n dusty mornin’
on the road to Realism:
bus couldn’ ha’ been more ‘n nine miles
outside the Big City when the
air-conditionin’ gave out.
The upright, sunburn-wrinkled faces
’round me soon started a’meltin’
into sleepy country roads —
like the ones ya sees on bank calendars:
with clapboard corner stores a’boastin’
sales on ‘Freudian Slips’ an’ plastic posies.
Yeah, ah jus’ knowed ah be headed straight fo’
Hell, so’s ah closed may eyes real tight
sayin’ “Praised be the Lawd!”
Feelin’ panicky that ah be most terribly lost,
ah was jus’ abouts to get off that bus,
when ah hears someone whisper “Nigger.”
Well chil’, ah gots mad fo’ a minute,
but then ah jus’ grinned like an
old fly in a new outhouse ’cause
suddenly ah know’d exactly where ah be.

— Adam Donaldson Powell, “Collected poems and stories”, 2005, Cyberwit publishing.

And to many, I am still “just a nigger”:

My own first memory of outright racism was when I was seven years of age and living in Madrid, Spain, and was called “negrito” in a taunting manner.

I had many racist experiences in the USA … at work, on the streets, at school and sexually, but I have also had several as an adult here in Norway. One sexual partner saw a photo of me as a child and commented: “Here you really look like a ‘nigger!’.”

Another time at the train station a young white boy ran after me screaming “hey nigger!” it turned out that he did not know how to properly address an unknown black man.

And yet another time an elderly white man leaned over to me on a bus in Oslo and asked me what I was reading:
“What are you reading … ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin?!!” he taunted. (I was reading Ibsen, in Norwegian in fact).

I am generally rather passively-indignant at such racist and stupid behaviour, but I must admit that I have often thought to say: “I am not a nigger, but I do have a different skin colour and social intelligence than you have. When I become a ‘nigger’ I will let you know … and I doubt that you will find that comfortable to experience.”

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