Too Smart to Be Black

Illustration: Tiffany Tuedor

i traveled back in time

1994 to be exact

and i saw myself
with my head
buried inside
of my arms
on top of
the wooden desk
in ms. booker’s classroom

my tears
had seeped through
my brand new
mickey mouse shirt
that i got for Christmas

my small
body and mind
had crashed under
the weight
of whispered insults
from answering
all
of ms. booker’s questions
correctly
accurately
precisely

i wasn’t supposed to

i’d just transferred to the school in the middle of the year,
and i’d only been in her classroom for two weeks

mismatched curricula
leaves Black girls
like fish out of water,
struggling to swim

so
when we speak
and when we write
they will call us everything
except for our names

some will even call us white

because Black girls
aren’t supposed to
know anything
say anything
be anything

be seen but never heard

i walked over
to the brown desk
where the younger me sat

and i crouched down
and whispered
in my small ear

the outside had become wet
from constantly wiping tears

i comforted her
and told her
not to feel
ashamed
for her intellect
for having an opinion

i told her
that she would
grow older
and help shape
the learning experiences
of Black and Brown youth like her

i told her
that she would speak
and she would write
but
no one
would whisper insults

in fact,
they would listen
they would listen
they would listen

Read everything from Lakeya Omogun — and more.

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