I am the Sins of Those Before Me

They arrived in droves, valuable cargo.
Used for the well being of others
to plant and sow, shod our horses,
tend our fields and homes.

In their visibility they were anonymous.
They were bid upon and owned.
Free will shackled in irons,
inhumanity by humanity.

This is our history. Not sepia toned
nor romantically blurred by antiquity.
Not smudged as charcoal blends,
disappears into fine threads of vellum.

This is our history,
and I am ashamed.

Posted to dVerse where Bjorn is hosting OLN; opens at 3 PM Boston time.
No photo posted with this poem. Racism still lives and appears on nightly news. I crave the dream of Martin Luther King and pray for all our children, for a better, kinder, more just world.


45 thoughts on “I am the Sins of Those Before Me

  1. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) September 22, 2016 / 9:27 am

    I think we all bear a guilt, but I’m horrified by all those who are not and want to revoke all the worst elements of the past.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kanzensakura September 22, 2016 / 3:14 pm

    Remarkable poem Lillian. I feel badly about the past and the sins of those who used humans as money and profit. I don’t feel guilt at slavery, to be honest. My ancestors never bartered or bargained for humans nor used them to do work for them. But I do feel guilty about the Jim Crow laws enacted and how my ancestors were part of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 23, 2016 / 2:04 pm

      Thank you. I’ve had this poem in draft form for about two weeks. Was hesitant to post. It’s certainly received some interesting responses. I remember as a little girl driving from Illinois to Florida every summer to visit my grandmother — no airconditioning in the car. Windows rolled down. And not understanding why I had to drink from a particular drinking fountain.


      • kanzensakura September 23, 2016 / 3:12 pm

        I know. I grew up with separate rest rooms, water fountains, back of the bus…the rule was separate but equal but it was far from equal. I refuse to take the white man’s burden for slavery but I do have guilt about Jim Crow. I think it is the trend for white folk to take on every giuilt around African Americans. When we all know the black slave owners were the worst masters. Wny not take on the guilt for the Nazi genocide of Jews? Why not take on the guikt for our genocide of and slavery of First Americans? There is certainly much to be ashamed of there yet they complain the least. So that is where I put my shame.


  3. Glenn Buttkus September 22, 2016 / 3:29 pm

    Racism is certainly one of the darker demons that plagues mankind, from India’s caste system to the Middle East horrors to yes, our own history, ur own streets, hearts & minds. Living in the north woods, I have no familial shame, but I do have to deal with anger that persists as I watch the Klan & the Birchers clamor to Trump’s side, & watch perpetual riots post police brutality.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 23, 2016 / 2:05 pm

      Thank you for your read here, Glenn. Hatred being spewed is frightening.


  4. lynn__ September 22, 2016 / 3:30 pm

    A shameful blot on our nation’s history that cannot be erased…and sadly, we still have racism and injustice.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Brian September 22, 2016 / 3:53 pm

    A worthy tribute to the dark days that seem never to recede but are freshly washed ashore with each turn of the news cycle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 23, 2016 / 2:07 pm

      …yes. And 24/7 news means we see each action over and over and over and over. I am fearful for the divisiveness that seems to have ripped apart in this country.


      • Brian September 23, 2016 / 2:45 pm

        I think it has only accelerated what was already present.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. kim881 September 22, 2016 / 3:59 pm

    I agree with Linda, Lillian. You have expressed this difficult topic delicately. I particularly like the lines:
    ‘This is our history. Not sepia toned
    nor romantically blurred by antiquity.
    Not smudged as charcoal blends,
    disappears into fine threads of vellum.’

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 23, 2016 / 2:08 pm

      Thank you, Kim. I’ve held on to this post for quite some time. It has certainly received a myriad of reactions. I appreciate your kind response.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dr. Crystal Howe September 22, 2016 / 4:56 pm

    Well done, I hear cries in this… There will always be conflict in this world. The best we can do seems so small that we rarely do it – take responsibility for own our thoughts, beliefs, and actions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 23, 2016 / 2:09 pm

      I agree. Thank you for your response. I appreciate it.


  8. Victoria C. Slotto September 22, 2016 / 5:33 pm

    So very powerful, Lillian.

    This is our history. Not sepia toned
    nor romantically blurred by antiquity.
    Not smudged as charcoal blends,
    disappears into fine threads of vellum.

    Sadly, history in every country is laced with injustice and prejudice. Great title that expresses with clarity the theme of your poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 23, 2016 / 2:10 pm

      Thank you, Victoria. Yes…and there are so many other aspects of our history that are troubling: Wounded Knee, Japanese Internment camps, Jim Crow. I fear we are on a precipice now…

      Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 23, 2016 / 2:11 pm

      Thank you. Truly appreciate your words here.


  9. Grace September 22, 2016 / 6:21 pm

    A very meaningful and timely share Lillian. Sadly it is very much alive and we are all guilty of it. Love the ending lines.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 23, 2016 / 2:11 pm

      Thank you, Grace. Your reply is heartening. I appreciate it.


  10. Margaret Elizabeth Bednar September 22, 2016 / 7:43 pm

    Mixed emotions – its far more complicated than this… blacks sold blacks, many whites fought to free blacks. Yes, racism of all kinds exist – and some refuse to pull themselves up by their own boot straps. The problem is today we want to blame one thing – and refuse to see outside the “tv” box. “romantically blurred” is often the history we are fed and believe. There really is more good than bad I believe – its just that the focus is never on it. I do like your poem – It brings up a LOT of things to discuss, doesn’t it?


    • lillian September 23, 2016 / 10:13 am

      Yes. It is far more complicated than this — but for me, poetry expresses feelings and pieces of truth. Thank you for your read.


  11. thotpurge September 22, 2016 / 10:28 pm

    Not sepia toned
    nor romantically blurred by antiquity.
    Not smudged as charcoal blends,
    disappears into fine threads of vellum…. very strong write. Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 23, 2016 / 2:12 pm

      Thank you. Very much appreciate your words here.


  12. Mish September 23, 2016 / 12:19 am

    A very emotional piece. The ending was so strong and I do feel that as ancestors of those who have done wrong, we can feel the shame and guilt. It is not deliberate, it is not necessarily who we are as individuals, evolved, educated or enlightened….but it is where we come from, which is often hard to accept.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 23, 2016 / 2:12 pm

      Thank you so very much for your thoughtful read and candid reply. It is truly appreciated.


  13. Sue Anderson September 23, 2016 / 3:02 am

    I wish Martin Luther King were here today. We could use him to heal the divide that seems to be yawning ever wider.

    Liked by 1 person

    • LZ September 23, 2016 / 10:10 am

      He’s here. You just don’t see him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • lillian September 23, 2016 / 10:12 am

        He is present in many —


  14. LZ September 23, 2016 / 10:10 am

    These are my favorite lines:
    “In their visibility they were anonymous.”
    “This is our history. Not sepia toned”

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 23, 2016 / 2:13 pm

      Thank you. Sadly, this is our history…albeit one small piece of it.


  15. ladynyo September 23, 2016 / 10:19 am

    I’m with Margaret on this issue. It’s complex, but for those of us who live in Black communities ( I do and have for 45 years) it’s a mixed bag. I see the racism of Blacks towards, whites, Jews, Asians, etc…almost every day. It’s a knee jerk response brought about by ignorance.

    This week, on my street, 5 young thugs beat up a middle aged man with a cast on his leg. All black, and the police? Did nothing. My neighbors were threatened by these thugs when they went to intervene…were told to keep their asses on their porches. Until there is some higher morality guiding all races, this crap will continue. When we turn a blind eye on this behavior from this generation, we continue its effects.

    However, that doesn’t dismiss the power of your poem.


    • lillian September 23, 2016 / 1:23 pm

      I am sorry you’ve had these experiences.

      Yes. It is a complex issue. I actually wrote this two weeks ago and held on to it because I knew it would bring a variety of responses. I write to express my thoughts, feelings, observations; my past, my present; metaphorically, practically. I write to have my words accessible…even though they may be understood in a myriad of ways.

      These are my thoughts on one aspect of a very complex history of actions in this country. One could write about Wounded Knee, about Japanese Internment camps, about many complex issues and touch only on one crimped edge of it.

      Once we let our words leave our mouths, our pens, our keyboards, they are open to interpretation by others who may very well come to them with an entirely different set of experiences. This is true of the paintbrush and any type of human gesture.

      Thank you for your read and your response.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. katiemiafrederick September 23, 2016 / 5:38 pm

    SMiLes.. my FriEnd Lillian..
    haven’t done an open prompt
    night in months.. but came by
    for an eclectic mix of muse..
    and the comments
    here certainly
    FeeL the
    atmosphere of
    thaT.. a greatest lesSon
    i lEarned was from the military..
    just working for the Navy as civilian
    for a quarter of a century.. everyone was
    noted to bleed the same color.. and it was
    amazing how everyone.. and i do mean everyone
    treated each other as a shipmate.. just a few miles
    North in a place named Jay.. until just a couple of
    decades ago.. still in the 90’s.. it was a place
    where the veteran shipmates warned
    their fellow African
    American friends
    not to
    after dark..
    i for one.. will
    bleed now with shipmates
    my friend.. and sadly the truth
    is.. ‘that good book’ was used
    to substantiate the ‘good’ of slavery..
    Now that homosexual individuals are
    finally able to get legal marriage rights..
    from the same part of ‘the Good book’
    that used to give credence
    to slavery too..
    the Declaration
    of Independence finAlly
    is applying to all as Lord
    kNows.. outcast status for any
    social animal is a form of slavery..
    as bad as shackles as it prevents the
    pursuit of Life as Liberty and Happiness…
    Yes.. as Shawna said above.. aka LZ.. Martin Luther King
    in eYes
    that see
    sKin as Free..
    bEyond words
    and books of before.. My FriEnd..
    wE bleed.. we bleed toGetHer FReED..
    and truly there are so many forms of ‘invisible’
    slavery heir apparent to the rabbit who still moves..
    like classrooms and work attached to StiLL and stagnate..
    but ha..
    that could
    be another
    WiNks not
    isn’t this great fun..
    being ReTired with
    so much new tREad to sHare..
    and i swear i could have never
    done any of this in that Government
    place of slavery in stagnate Golden CuFFS
    not only
    slavery but
    literal prison..
    as i can still remember
    the Captain of the base storming
    through.. demanding that the blinds
    be turned one way.. without a dare
    at her power that had no oversight..
    so many paths.. to slavery.. mY FriENd..
    And as the Matrix says.. many people
    have no clue wHeRe they are2..
    it can
    be.. to unplug..
    as alWays.. thanks
    for the inspiration too.. my FriENd..:)




  17. Delyn Merce September 24, 2016 / 1:57 am

    Fabulous and remarkable writing–tough subject, and I, too, long for MLK’s dream to be realized.


  18. kaykuala (@hankkaykuala) September 24, 2016 / 3:27 am

    A never ending story where one who wields power would like it to be sustained and abhors the meek protestations of the deprived but with high-handed actions. A brave take Lillian!



  19. freyathewriter September 24, 2016 / 10:38 am

    Strong and powerful words here. I cannot comprehend those that don’t see this abuse of power for what it is, and feel no shame.


  20. Theresa Milstein September 25, 2016 / 9:05 am

    Brave to tackle such a hard subject. The last two lines are powerful.
    My favorite line: In their visibility they were anonymous.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. okcoolcool March 6, 2017 / 6:56 pm

    That was touching, a piece like none I’ve read


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