Young Writers Project: 'Answer To A Son'
This poem by Gabrielle Jarrett is part of a series from eighth-grade students at Crossroads Academy in Lyme, N.H., who read and responded to the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King. Gabrielle based her piece on the following quote:
"When you have to concoct an answer for a 5-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos: 'Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?' ... when your first name becomes 'nigger' and your middle name becomes 'boy' (however old you are) and your last name becomes 'John' ... when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living in tiptoe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Answer To A Son
By Gabrielle Jarrett
Grade 8, Crossroads Academy, Lyme, N.H.
A young boy,
still untainted by the horrors of the world,
returns to his father with a troubled mind.
"Papa," he says in a childish tone.
"Why won't the white boys play with me?"
His big brown eyes stare up into his father's face.
A silent sigh escapes the father's lips
as he prepares to stain his son's small world.
"Son," he begins quietly. "We're different, we all are."
He shakes his head,
discouraged by his own words, and the ones to follow.
"They hate us because of our race."
"Race, daddy?" the boy repeats with young innocence.
"Did we win the race?"
With a part smile, part grimace the father replies,
A tear trickles down his cheek.
"We're losing quite badly."
The boy looks up, eyes round with honesty as he says,
"Well, why don't we win?"
And as he skips away, he sings, "We'll win! I'll make us win!"
And the father sits, watching his boy, knowing the truth.
Another tear falls for the boy and his race,
for the father knows he can't win –
not without help from the other team.