Types of Burns: an open letter to our white friends and supposed allies by MEH

Black Lives Matter. We must all do what we can, one individual choice at a time, to dismantle white supremacy—in our selves, our relationships, our communities, and our institutions. Frontier stands in unrelenting support of the protestors demanding change—we send you every prayer, every bit of energy we have. Stay safe and stay healthy and stay bold.

Types of Burns is a space for Black voices who have something to say about this moment. This may be lyric essay, poetry, photography, etc. Submit your work here. We sincerely thank Matthew and every Black artist who has helped make Frontier what it is today. Today, we are publishing an urgent poem by Matthew E. Henry.


an open letter to our white friends and supposed allies

you should know: we play a game.
all of us. we imagine the aftermath
of our official lynching—the result
of the inevitable traffic stop, the armed
wrong invasion of our residence, or merely
walking, sitting, sleeping, existing anywhere
a warrant has been issued for our skin-crime.

and so we all hope we will rate a riot.

we count the tweets and t-shirts, the virility
of our # memorials. the number of racist statues
and statutes with nooses around their stone necks.
the number of buildings and cop cars burned
in our name. in all of our names. and knowing
They will attempt to defame the days before our death—
investigate how white our skeletons—
the more competitive among us go the extra mile
to replace your cardboard with Molotov cocktails.

we have scrubbed the earth of all pictures
with do-rags or without diplomas. we consistently
choose church over the club, kale over Kools.
we pre-set our radios to the local NPR affiliate
and give to charity like others daily don clean underwear.
we keep our tox-screens and browser histories as open
and in sight as our hands, to leave no excuse.

and still, we wonder what you will say—
what you will do—when the time comes,
compared to what you are doing right now.


MEH is Matthew E. Henry, the author of Teaching While Black (Main Street Rag, 2020), and editor-in-chief of The Weight Journal. His recent works are appearing or forthcoming in The Baltimore Review, Bryant Literary Review, The New Verse News, Ninth Letter, Ploughshares, Poemeleon, Porcupine Literary, The Radical Teacher, Rejection Letters, The Revolution (Relaunch), Solstice, Versification, and The Windhover. MEH is an educator who received his MFA from Seattle Pacific University, yet continued to spend money he didn’t have completing an MA in theology and a PhD in education from other institutions. You can find him at www.MEHPoeting.com writing about race, religion, and burning this system to the ground.

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