“You know you don’t have to talk about it.”
I’ve been staring at the same poster for the entire hour. It says “Racism: Just undo it”. A square, laminated piece of paper, half black with white lettering, half white with black lettering. Not only does the declarative not make any sense, but it is virtually unachievable. People will always be fighting over something and a pathetic piece of paper isn’t going to change that.
The walls around the paper are a light gray color and the sun makes it almost look cheery. The sun casts a yellow line across the poster, cutting some letters apart, segregating them with the happiness of the sun.
My eyes slowly trace down the gray wall to the man sitting across from me. I think about how no matter how many posters they hang up around this place, around the world, he’ll always be African American. Not that he should have to carry the raciest baggage with him, but the poster might as well be saying “Race: just undo it” because the faults in society will always be as concrete as genes, if not even more so.
He adjusts his glasses, the glass glinting the sun into my own eyes. I squint, and for a second, I can’t read the poster. It all falls under the same blurry haze, fogging out specific words or facial features. He adjusts his glasses, but he might as well be pointing a gun to my head.
I look back up to the poster. I wonder who put it there, or if he even knows it’s up there, toward the top of the wall, kind of tucked away in plain sight. I wonder if he knows what it means. I wonder if I know what it means. Just undo it. In our world, sadly, I don’t think anything can be unthreaded that easily. It isn’t as simple as erasing the letting from a poster; everything is so cemented and embedded in human nature that nothing, not even the end of the world, could get rid of it.
I see that he is looking up at the poster as well, body turned around in the chair like a plane just landed in the office. He looks up at the poster for quite some time, brown suit wrinkling awkwardly at his disheveled disposition. I wait silently for him to turn back, and when he does, he nods. Maybe he finally understands how idiotic that poster is. Maybe he gets it.
“That came with the office.” He says, gravelly voice harsher than the sun cascading on his face. He folds his hands on his lap carefully, as if they might break. “I never took it down. I don’t know why. Maybe it was just because I couldn’t get a ladder in here. It’s awfully high up there.”
“And it’s a positive sign, I think. Positivity is always good to have in a place like this.” He says. I don’t know if I believe him though. He looks up to the poster one more quick time before clearing is throat, a sign that our hour is over. “It looks like that is all the time we have for today.” He says, standing up. I stand as well, taking one more glance at the poster. Racism: Just undo it. If only everything could be simplified into a declarative. If only everything could be undone on a whim. Just undo it. I wish it was that easy.
Last year, in my AP History class, I spent probably too much time looking up at a poster like the one described above. Now, I’m not blaming the poster for my ultimate failure of the class and exam, however it did inspire a lot of questions as to what it meant, exactly. My teacher said that it came with the classroom, but I wasn’t so sure as to why he never took it down. It obviously isn’t a very powerful message since things like racism are so embedded into society, even after the lettering hung on a classroom wall.
Anyway, it inspired this little piece as well. Hopefully my distraction and detachment while looking at the poster for the majority of the classes are clearly represented above. You can’t just undo things, and I hope this message at least gets through a bit more than the poster.
As always, thanks for reading.