We Wear the Mask

in response to my AP Lit Teacher choosing this for us to analyze in order to better understand "the perspective of the oppressed and how they're viewed by their oppressors..."
  1. We Wear the Mask
    By Paul Dunbar, 1896
  2. We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,
  3. This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, And mouth with myriad subtleties.
  4. Why should the world be over-wise, In counting all our tears and sighs?
  5. Nay, let them only see us, while We wear the mask.
  6. We smile, but O great Christ, our cries To thee from tortured souls arise. We sing, but oh the clay is vile Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
  7. But let the world dream otherwise, We wear the mask!
    ...................................................................
  8. A beautifully written poem conceived by the 1st African American poet to receive national acclaim by both black and white audiences.
  9. He was also perceived as one of the black communities biggest "sell outs" by those who did not see his work for what it was: survival.
  10. Almost 125 years later, a predominantly white classroom is encouraged to rip apart this piece of work in order to find the "deeper meaning" and "real life applications".
  11. And so, as my fellow classmates were eager to ingest, and thus regurgitate the right answers, I was less enthusiastic because i kept thinking about how this poem hit too close too home.
  12. I kept thinking about how many times I've seen that mask on the faces of the people i love, and how naive i've been all my life to only just now have a name for it.
  13. And here it was on paper in the words of a man who preceded most of my known relatives.
  14. So, they analyzed the poem the way they were asked to. And i analyzed it the way i needed to.
    So here, Dr. Bowen, is my deeper meaning and real life application.
  15. We Wear the Mask
    Rewritten by Faith Wright, 2016
  16. We wear the mask that puts up a front, Pretends it doesn't hurt so much, This is the price we choose to pay, The tax on freedom, modern day, It should've been enough.
  17. Our hearts no longer on our sleeves, Desperate, longing for reprieve, Transparency leaves you exposed, Put on your mask.
  18. My eyes betray the rage inside, When the unaware are qualified, To pick apart the words of those, Whose cries from darkest hearts arose.
  19. Remove our masks, reveal beneath Unspoken spitfire in our teeth. This poem begs no apology, Asks only to be seen.
  20. We wear the mask, but oh I wish, You'd understand there's more to this, Than slavery and civil rights, Fallen heroes, this is our fight: We wear our masks today.