There was one girl in our school whose mother made her wear a clothespin on her nose to make it thin. There were quite a few girls who tried to bleach their skin white with bleaching cream and who got pimples instead. And, of course, we went to the beauty parlor and got our hair straightened. I couldn’t wait to go to the beauty parlor and get my hair all fried up. I wanted Shirley Temple curls just like Shirley Temple. I hated the smell of fried hair and having my ears burned, but we were taught that women had to make great sacrifices to be beautiful. And everybody knew you had to be crazy to walk the streets with nappy hair sticking out. And of course long hair was better than short hair. We all knew that.
We had been completely brainwashed and we didn’t even know it. We accepted white value systems and white standards of beauty and, at times, we accepted the white man’s view of ourselves. We had never been exposed to any other point of view or any other standard of beauty. From when I was a tot, I can remember black people saying, “Niggas aint shit.” “You know how lazy niggas are.” “Give a nigga an inch and he’ll take a mile.” Everybody knew what “niggas” like to do after they eat: sleep. Everybody knew that “niggas” couldn’t be on time; that’s why there was c.p.t. (colored people’s time). “Niggas don’t take care of nothing.” “Niggas don’t stick together.” The list could go on.
To varying degrees we accepted these statements as true. And, to varying degrees, we each made them true within ourselves because we believed them.
When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
See, capitalism is not fundamentally racist -- it can exploit racism for its purposes, but racism isn't built into it. Capitalism basically wants people to be interchangeable cogs, and differences among them, such as on the basis of race, usually are not functional. I mean, they may be functional for a period, like if you want a super exploited workforce or something, but those situations are kind of anomalous. Over the long term, you can expect capitalism to be anti-racist -- just because its anti-human. And race is in fact a human characteristic -- there's no reason why it should be a negative characteristic, but it is a human characteristic. So therefore identifications based on race interfere with the basic ideal that people should be available just as consumers and producers, interchangeable cogs who will purchase all the junk that's produced -- that's their ultimate function, and any other properties they might have are kind of irrelevant, and usually a nuisance.
But after awhile I began to understand that oppressed people —just by being oppressed — suffer serious wounds. You might go into a store, and somebody might follow you around the store, and you would have a choice of how to react: you could confront them and say "Why are you following me around the store?" or you could say to yourself: "Well, I came here to buy some socks, so let me just concentrate on buying the socks." But you still feel the pain. The obvious racism before had affected me, the prisons, torture... my whole life had created wounds, scars in me that in Cuba I was able to find a space to begin to heal. To begin to think, "Yeah, this happened", and I can look at it and see it for what it was but not be there, not be destroyed by it, not be turned into something bitter and evil by it. And not be like my enemies. Because I think that the greatest betrayal that a revolutionary can participate in is to become like the people you are struggling against. To become like your persecutors. I think that is a betrayal and a sin.
no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well your neighbors running faster than you breath bloody in their throats the boy you went to school with who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory is holding a gun bigger than his body you only leave home when home won’t let you stay. no one leaves home unless home chases you fire under feet hot blood in your belly it’s not something you ever thought of doing until the blade burnt threats into your neck and even then you carried the anthem under your breath only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets sobbing as each mouthful of paper made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back. you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land no one burns their palms under trains beneath carriages no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled means something more than journey. no one crawls under fences no one wants to be beaten pitied no one chooses refugee camps or strip searches where your body is left aching or prison, because prison is safer than a city of fire and one prison guard in the night is better than a truckload of men who look like your father no one could take it no one could stomach it no one skin would be tough enough the go home blacks refugees dirty immigrants asylum seekers sucking our country dry niggers with their hands out they smell strange savage messed up their country and now they want to mess ours up how do the words the dirty looks roll off your backs maybe because the blow is softer than a limb torn off or the words are more tender than fourteen men between your legs or the insults are easier to swallow than rubble than bone than your child body in pieces. i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark home is the barrel of the gun and no one would leave home unless home chased you to the shore unless home told you to quicken your legs leave your clothes behind crawl through the desert wade through the oceans drown save be hunger beg forget pride your survival is more important no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear saying- leave, run away from me now i dont know what i’ve become but i know that anywhere is safer than here