Dirty Water

When I try to convince someone that my way is better than theirs, I don’t stand there and tell them their glass is dirty, and as a result they’re drinking dirty water. I just stand quietly, drinking my clear water from a sparkling clean glass, and let them draw their own conclusions. — Malcolm X, paraphrased

for Malcolm Little

We still drink dirty water
although forty years have passed,
and despite decades of struggle
have yet to be free at last

from the misguided notions
that served us to some degree,
but lay the blame at our own feet
at our hypocrisy

Equality? That’s just a word
that draws the softer vote;
and even then, you hear it catch
in politician’s throats

when they survey the ghetto
from inside their limousines
on their way to a better home
than most have ever seen.

It’s more than just a color bar
that splits this land apart.
There’s a flaw in our base logic
that divides the mind and heart:

if we don’t believe we’re equal,
at the core built just the same,
then what good are politicians,
save for dividing the blame?

If we simply clean our glasses,
but still draw from dirty wells,
the sole use for spit and polish
is reflecting the same hell.

23 JAN 2005

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