Tearing Out My Deeply Rooted Defects

By Katie Kitchens

Searching for what it means to be a white person doing the work of racial justice is an ongoing (and lifelong) journey for me:

  • To become a better ancestor (thank you, Leesa Renee Hall)

  • To reclaim my own humanity

  • To really show up for the People of the Global Majority that I love because I don't think you can love someone and passively (or actively) participate in their oppression

  • To work in solidarity for universal liberation.

This poem was birthed from that searching. 


My great, great, great uncle was the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan
That's a story my family tells
Red cheeked and whispering 
With shame closing our throats
Like rope around the necks of the men he hanged
Or wanted to hang
I don't know his name
I don't need to to know its true
To know that the blood of colonizers runs inside me

How do you love a Black woman 
When your body is a lynching tree?
When your skin stretches over branches
Wrapped around bone
When you can't tell if you're muscle or leaf
When you can't tell if your outstretched arms are nooses

I'm starting a riot in me 
Setting fire to the car that 
Dragged James Byrd Jr to death
The car that drives me to school
Praying that these arms show up
As hugs and not handcuffs

I'm birthing my love through blisters
Splintering these boughs inside of me
Tearing roots from the ground
Again. And again. And again. And again. 
Tending the soil in the hopes
That something new can grow here