Monday, June 29, 2015

A Kind Coward at a Bigot’s Party

By Linda Goodman

©Linda Goodman 1988

The small black child looked up at me, eyes wide with fear.
“I’ve lost my mommy,” she said with quivering voice.
“Can you help me find her?”

My face burned as I felt around me the hostility of those who awaited my reaction.
“No, child, find her for yourself.”
My voice was cold.
(“Please go away, I begged silently”)

“Is she the cook’s child?” someone whispered.
“Can we send her to the kitchen?”

“Aw, go play in the street ‘til you Mama comes,” said a suave man in a three piece suit.
“The little uns just grow up to be big uns,” he said in an aside.

The room exploded with laughter.

I laughed, too.

For though my conscience tore my heart in two,
I could not summon the courage needed to banish the shame I felt.

Man’s inhumanity to man runs rampant               
Because cowards

Like me

Perpetuate it.

God help us.


  1. OMG, Linda!! What a heart retching experience. How courageous of you to share it in this beautifully written poem. This honest sharing of stories is what we need to dismantle racism. May I pass it on?? Did you ever hear my story, Pink Spit? It's about an event that happened when I was about 7 years old, at my grandparents' house in Meadowview VA. Again - thank you for putting this poem out there.

    1. Feel free to pass the poem along, Katie. This poem is actually about an incident that I witnessed when I was 8 years old (1960). A woman refused to help a little girl lost, someone made a snide remark, and the crowd shook with laughter. I remember the woman laughed, too, but when she turned towards me, she was wiping tears from her eyes. The look on her face was one of shame. The incident haunted me for years. I have not heard your story Pink Spit, but I would love to hear it.

  2. Linda, as always, wonderful. Simple and yet profound.