Not who we think we are

It is a glittering blue
January day
In our perfect little town
In Northern California
Song birds are vocalizing
All over the place
Families are walking and biking
The welcoming streets
Chatting with neighbors
Luxuriating in the warm dry weather
After a month of deluges
Happy to be out of the house
And feeling the long-absent sun.
Did I mention the murder
Of Tyre Nichols, a young African-American man
In Memphis, Tennessee?
He was beaten to death
By the police
For the crime of
Nothing at all.
We got to watch it all
On TV.
All good people are outraged.

Parents and grandparents
Are pushing newborns in strollers
Kids are zooming around
On bikes and skateboards
Folks are digging the rain-softened soil
In their gardens
And dreaming of abundant flora.
Did I mention
The young teacher in Los Angeles
Keenan Anderson
Who was involved in a traffic accident
And was murdered by excessive tasering by –
Wait for it . .
The police.
Keenan was zapped for more than 40 seconds
With 50,000 volts.
Four hours later his heart stopped.
All good people are outraged.

Thanks to the rain
Followed by several sunny days
Buds are already beginning to appear
On trees
Flowering quinces are just starting
To fling their bright pink blossoms
Into the day.
Everywhere life is leaping
Out of the ground.
I forgot to mention forest-protector Manuel Teran
Who was shot dead in his tent by police
When they raided the camp of activists
Hoping to save an urban forest
From development.
Police say he shot first.
There are questions.

Particularly on a beautiful day like today
It is so easy to think of our America
As a benign nation –
Flawed, perhaps,
But basically good.
On a sunny day like today
It is easy for those of us
With the privilege of white skin
To gloss over
The bloody and brutal history
Of our America,
The racist history
Of our America,
The present-day domestic savagery
And international barbarity
Of our America.
But even on a sunny day like today
We are not
Who we think we are.

Buff Whitman-Bradley’s newest book is And What Will We Sing? a collection of protest and social justice poems spanning the last 25 years. He podcasts at and lives with his wife, Cynthia, in northern California. Read other articles by Buff.