Fahrenheit 1492

Ewuare X. Osayande
6 min readAug 17, 2023

A Contraband Critical Race Poem

“Colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the people and distorts, disfigures and destroys it.”
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

for real though
it’s kind of understandable
when you think about it

I mean who would want their history such as yours taught?

when you consider what the record actually says
as recorded by your own writers, philosophers
(if you can call them that)
who created the idea of race

trace the contours of history and what do we see?
except it written by killers, conquistadors and enslavers
men who called themselves white
as right
as to say superior

men who never would’ve imagined
that the people they put in chains
would ever be able to one day
read their captain’s logs let alone their diaries

but here we are

with the legacy of shame in today’s terms
laid out plain

so yea
we get it

given your history of violence
such as it is …

each page bleeding
with the guts of peoples from every corner of the globe
pilloried in the name of your privilege denied

would take a magic marker to your history
and mark it classified like the FBI
to hide all the dirt you’ve done

want the whole world
like you
uncouth to the truth

as if we ain’t living that history now

you don’t want them to know about Emmett Till
or thousands of Black people lynched
cause they might make the connection to
Trayvon Martin
Michael Brown
Sandra Bland
Breonna Taylor
Philando Castille
and all the others unnamed
and come to you reeling from the sense of betrayal

yea I guess it makes sense
for someone as weak-minded and fragile as you

but what you trying to do
ain’t nothing new
our history been black-marketed since
you outlawed us learning
caught lashes on our back or worse
if caught with a book in hand
or when we stole ourselves free
from your plantations
as contraband
and crossed enemy lines during the war
that you still deny
you fought to keep us enslaved

this is your brain on white supremacy
the disdain is palpable
it would be laughable
if it weren’t true
got guns to the heads of teachers
daring them to tell the truth

ban books written by us
cause it hurts your brains
to read what terrible human beings
your fathers and mothers were and are
don’t want your kids to see granny
spitting rabid at little Ruby Bridges
or the owner of America’s team
smiling as his friends beat
Black kids integrating lunch counters in the South

you were good when all the books were written by you

whited out
Frederick Douglass,
Nat Turner
and Sojourner Truth,
Ida B. Wells
you lie about Pocahontas
but erase Geronimo,
Sitting Bull
and Tecumseh
made mascots out of those you massacred
Colonized Puerto Rico,
the Philippines

Elvis Presleyed history

teach Thanksgiving
and tell us
the Indigenous just gave up their land
and walked onto reservations

published textbooks in Texas
teach we got in those ships ourselves
the chains were decorations
happy smiling darkies
“The Help”
not slaves
just “unpaid”
we volunteered our lives away
the whips were for our own good
like why you got us locked up in these hoods

or like when you banned the Chinese
from these shores
said they were like vermin
as in spreaders of disease
just like you tried to do after Covid-19

you would have us believe that the West
was just one long John Wayne movie

some of you cool with us learning about concentration camps
in Germany
not the ones here
that interned Japanese Americans for being Japanese
said it was national security
like you do now with those who pray to the East

ever uneased by identities you can’t police
who live outside the confines you’ve manufactured
during the Dark Ages

your beauty standards are ugly
as you looking back at yourself in the mirror of time
ugly as the horror you unleash

who’s the only who
to drop a nuclear bomb on another country?

and you wonder why you ain’t well-liked

consider that
just about every world problem
began with a decision made by you
for the sake of brevity
we’ll begin in 1492

who said white was so special?
that the rest of the world should worship you
as God?
sent missionaries around the world
to demonize our way of life
called us savages as you savaged our lands

when you teach your children to pray
you want them to imagine God as Santa Claus
who loves all the world that he gave his only son, begotten
not as the rotgut burner of women at the stake
not as the namesake blessed on the side of slave ships
not as the crucifiers of the Taino
who cut their babies in two
to test the sharpness of their blades.

there is no metaphor
more descriptive than you
in all your actual horror and filth

so what will you do?
burn books?
or burn the people you don’t want writing them?
a fascist’s decision, right?
but we not supposed to be that bright
not here in America
and yet here we are
where fascism is as racism does

you see
when we called it a theory
that was just us playing nice

the fact is
ain’t nothing theoretical about what has gone down

the fact is
there is no telling our story
without revealing you
as humanity’s constant antagonist

the fact is
you can’t handle the truth

the fact is we yawn at
your every pronouncement
of freedom and justice
as farcical
which is to say that
nobody believes that madness
except you

we see you for what you are

gaslight the whole world
and if that don’t work
you’d set it on fire and
burn it out of spite

yours is a meritocracy of mediocrity

can’t stand to see Black people happy
and you have the nerve to call us dysfunctional
how many Black men been lynched
or murdered by cops
on account of a white woman
raised to lie with tears weaponized?

it is this very inheritance of arrogance
a blood privilege
passed down in willed estates of callousness
a sense of entitlement tied back
to family discussions and friendly bets
on who’ll get to own the next pickaninny
(that’s what you called our children, right?)
born on the plantation

this for you is about more than books
it’s about banning our lives
rendering us unread by the world
judged by the cover of our skins

yet we are the text and testament
words walking in these tenements and barrios
each sacred as the next

we long done ripped ourselves
from your paper-thin script
the false narratives of your false consciousness
now unbound
we don’t subscribe to your borders
live our lives beyond the pale
of your laws and legislation
giving perpetual side-eye to your sorry-ass ways

our truths
tis of We
are evidenced by every author
you despise and devise to ban
we been ever wise to you
as in hip
or woke
after all, we come from the people
who said
every shut eye ain’t sleep

but peep this
even when we couldn’t read or write your words
we read you up and down
with a slow gaze of knowing
older than you

who’d have us believe a lie
a lie as white and foul as your beliefs
as your violence wrapped in the coda of law
as your ignorance masquerading as value

every lie you have ever told
has come back in your face
as your own disgrace

how does it feel to be rendered naked
before the world
as a fraud?

call it white supremacy
when there’s nothing supreme about you
at all

Ewuare X. Osayande is the founding editor of The Poetariat, an international poetry journal. He is the author of several books including Blood Luxury with an introduction by Amiri Baraka. A former adjunct professor in the Africana Studies Department at Rutgers University, his latest collection of poems is entitled Black Phoenix Uprising published by Africa World Press.



Ewuare X. Osayande

Author, Black Phoenix Uprising | Juris Doctorate Candidate | Founder, ORIJIN, a racial equity consultancy. Learn more about his work at osayande.org.