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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

My mother, from the continent of Europe —
Germany, in fact.
Father, family brought here as slaves
From Africa — Black.
Throughout my lifetime,
The first thing people would say:
What are you? Where are you from?
Even before asking my name.
Let me introduce myself.
You can say I am like a rainbow.
No bright colors here though.
White, yellow, red, brown, and black —
These are the colors of the “people” rainbow
As taught in schools.
So little one,
What’s your favorite color of the rainbow?
Here is your annual aptitude test.
Pick one.
[ ] White [ ] Black [ ] Native American [ ] Hispanic [ ] Asian
This is where racism begins.
What does the color of my skin
Have to do with how much I’ve taken in?
This is a test within itself.
[X] White, check,
[X] Black, check.
Or go to the office.
Principal’s office,
Here I come.
Mr. and Mrs.,
Your son refuses to pick just ONE.
Is this what you called us to the school for?
Do you mean to tell us
That this boy possesses more wisdom than you
An adult?
Look at us:
Mother [X] White, check, 
Father [X] Black, check.
Why are you mad at the boy?
Is it because he passes the trust test,
Which you are setting him up to fail?
He knows who he is,
Why would you try to teach him any different?
My first glimpse of racism,
Exhibited to me by those entrusted to help me succeed.
Adults, teachers, principals —
Some of the most influential people,
Shaping and molding our society.
Content of character, not color of skin.
No wonder that over fifty years after Dr. Martin Luther King
It is still a dream.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Clyde Whitfield III is a poet of African American and German descent incarcerated in California.