lenten journal: listen, white people


We worshipped today at First African Baptist Church in Richmond. It was a rich and meaningful service and the people there greeted us with extravagant hospitality. I have stories to tell about our day, but tonight, I am still dealing with feelings brought up by what I have seen while we have been here. Here’s a poem that tries to say some of what is going on inside me.

listen, white people

yeah, I’m talking to me
and to you, too
talking to anyone

who never had to worry
about being followed
stopped or accused

because of the
color of our skin

who never thought
twice about a hoodie
making us a threat

listen right now
we need to listen
do you hear me?

don’t speak of
what the boy might
have done wrong

don’t explain
make excuses or
offer solutions

just listen
listen, listen, listen
for a long time

then, when you speak
speak as an ally
not an expert



  1. Thank you, Milton. Sometimes I find it difficult to listen when the voices are so loud and angry and there is so much hate swirling around. My ears reflexively close. But I will continue to try.

  2. Really wonderful poem! And so important NOW. My church is hosting 4 talks called, “How to Talk to your Racist Uncle” next weekend. With permission may I share your poem?

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