Encounters

We say it as if it weren’t a slap –
“He is so polite.
He is such a nice young man.
He is one of the good ones.”

We say it when we hear of the encounter
between the young, black man we know
and the cell phone toting stranger
and the aisle stalking store security
and the overly diligent, hand on holster cop
and the random white person
who is us eyeing and evaluating
and … and … and …

We say it as if it were an honest mistake.
We say it as if our indignation were reparation.
We say it as if we know what a “good one” looks like.

We say it because we want to believe
that an accident of hue and value
isn’t all that would condemn us
to a teacher’s reprimand,
an employer’s shortened interview,
a police officer’s bullet,
or a Presidential tweet.

We say it as if it weren’t a slap.

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