You Sound White On The Phone

An excerpt from my upcoming book...

‘You’re the whitest black guy I know ‘

‘You sound white on the phone’

Where is this conversation supposed to go?

‘No offense’

‘But you’re the whitest black guy I know. Right on bro.’

Born in Germany, raised in Japan until I was 10 moved to Iowa and got confused all over again.

Where the hell am I? Who do I become? Who you expect me to be?

Rap until your ears go numb?

I’m a child of the 80s – Thriller, hip hop, MTV Run DMC but nobody could decipher how I was supposed to sound or what it meant to be...me. A black kid in Iowa? In a limbo of belonging...with nobody to rescue me.

Black girls never gave me the time of day because I was a sensitive child with no swagger, shit some of them told me I was gay. Growing up in different cultures bent my mind to see the vultures of a different kind, preying on the carcasses of people with small minds who thought America was one of a kind but once I arrived from Japan I had to rewind and find my own peace amongst my darkest moments,

I had a roof over my head but I still felt homeless. No I’m not from the hood but I still had it rough and yeah I’m a nice person but I will not hesitate to whoop some ass if I think I’ve had enough. But that’s what people expect. Statistically that's the going bet.

How does a black kid with a high school education distance himself from the shame of his past and adopt every nation-

He travels to and build a sound that makes him feel at home? All I know is that sound will never suffice for some.

I’m not black enough for the brothas and perfectly white for everyone else, like another nice black guy just sitting on the shelf. Waiting to be bought and loaned like pirates gold but one thing nobody knows is my sense of self got honed under the pressure of moving from place to place and fighting through my childhood, laying in bed wishing for death. With swollen eyes, flyswatter across my chest me and my little brother standing at attention dying with every breath. With a belt across my

feet the blood flowing like honey I tried to make him laugh – that’s how I found out I was funny.

When I spoke people laughed and it felt like me. I didn’t have any reason to change that or dress like RUN DMC. They’re from there, I’m a citizen of everywhere. American at heart but I know enough to stare at the reflection the world gave me of who I had become.

So no, I don’t sound black and no sounding black isn’t dumb. All I got is where I’m from and I’ll be damned if I will become

What you might find comfortable or white on the phone, I’m the whitest black guy you know and I’ve found a home. Inside your mind where you won’t let me exist, breaking down ignorant walls with a sharp tongue and a fist.

‘Ay yo man you know what I’m sayin, dis what they want for real! If I talk like dis they be scared as hell...still!’

My bruises on the inside sometimes show through my flesh, but I bury them with every breath as I walk with my chest out like a peacock with a few missing feathers and I may not exactly have it together but my voice is my voice and it’s not a color and I don’t need a damn degree. To prove who or what I am. Close your eyes. Listen closely.

My name is Kahlil Ashanti and I am blessed to be me.

-a poem by Kahlil Ashanti