B1%CK: The human race

This poem contains mention of police brutality.

You tell me,

“There’s only one race, the human race.”

And it’s a beautiful sentiment, truly

But it holds no bearing in my life

Maybe yours, but not mine.

This is because in every aspect of my life,

My colour comes before my humanity.

Because in any case, the common blood

That runs through our veins

Did nothing to stop that little Black boy from being lynched

Or that police officer from pulling the trigger.

For you,

It is your passions, character, hobbies, likes and dislikes and friends

All encompassed in the simple fact that you’re human

That others see first.

But for me

My passion, character, hobbies, likes and dislikes and friends

Are not immune to the influence that my colour holds

Over my humanness.

Could I be friends with her?

How does she feel about Black people?

Am I allowed to enjoy doing this or will I be perpetuating a stereotype?

I like him but would he like my skin?

For me

Humanity is only secondary.

Your humanity comes first

You’re the default, the normal.

You don’t stop to wonder if the interviewer was raised in a racist household

If they looked at your name on your resume and braced themselves for an encounter with the ghetto

You don’t Google whether that beautiful country you plan on visiting likes Black people

You simply


You don’t think about your colour because it never occurred to you to

Not even subconsciously.

But for me

I consciously remember every single day that I am Black, every single day.

What if my name was too long for the judges to bother reading?

Is it safe to visit Switzerland as a Black person?

When I walk into this party

Will I be the only person there that looks like me?

When I walked into this party

you said, in your head,

“Oh, she’s Black”

Though you will soon try to tell me that you noticed no such thing

But I don’t blame you, for when I walked into this party I too said in my head


I’m Black.”

You, you’re just...


Me, I’m not human.

I’m a Black human.

We’re not humans

We’re African humans

We’re dark humans

Brown humans

We’re not humans

We’re colours

And like any colour, your eyes are drawn to us

As if we’re spectacles that drape the sky for your own entertainment.

But don’t quite interest you enough to learn why.

So when you tell me that we should all get along because we’re all one race

The human race

I know that for you such idealism is possible

But for me

I do not have that luxury.

When my brother and I were young

He and my father had the talk.

Not about the birds and the bees

But about the intricacies

Of living life as a Black man.

“Don’t wear your durag in public it makes you look like a thug

Keep your distance from the white women

And always, always


Make sure your hands are where they can see them

Because you are guilty until proven innocent

And better men are in prison today for lesser crimes because of the way the sun

Reflected off of their melanin.”

My father said to him,

“Follow these rules

And hopefully, you’ll make it out alive.”

You see, for you

You send your brother outside and don’t know to feel relief when he returns home

But for me

I pray that he won’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong

Skin colour.

Because for him, his colour comes first

My colour comes first

And we navigate this society as hues

That happen to lie on the darker end of the spectrum

So as I scan the room for another dark or braided head

Just know that I can feel your eyes on my skin.

Maybe you’ll look away soon

So that you can convince yourself that we’re exactly the same

And you will smile to yourself and

Commend yourself for being




You will approach me when my search for familiarity ends.

Fruitless, as it often is

And you will tell me that

We’re all the same race, the human race

And I will know that you are lying because if what you say is true

Then this life I’ve lived has been for nothing.

But I am more than a colour

A blot on the paint pallet

A statistic on the charts

The token Black girl

I am a human, same as you

And like a wise man once said

I will clamber through the clouds and exist

Because I exist

And because I am human

And I want you to see it

And my humanity, first

Not second but first,

Just like yours

I insist upon my existence.

I insist upon my humanity.

Because there is only one race,

The human race.

And I’d hate to think that there’s anything more important

Than that.

This piece is part of The Ubyssey and UBC Black Student Union's 2023 Black History Month supplement, titled B1%CK. Read the full supplement here, or pick up a print paper on UBC's Vancouver campus.