Benjamin Zephaniah

(15 April 1958 / Birmingham)

White Comedy


I waz whitemailed
By a white witch,
Wid white magic
An white lies,
Branded by a white sheep
I slaved as a whitesmith
Near a white spot
Where I suffered whitewater fever.
Whitelisted as a whiteleg
I waz in de white book
As a master of white art,
It waz like white death.

People called me white jack
Some hailed me as a white wog,
So I joined de white watch
Trained as a white guard
Lived off the white economy.
Caught and beaten by de whiteshirts
I waz condemned to a white mass,
Don't worry,
I shall be writing to de Black House.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Brian Minniear (6/19/2014 8:36:00 PM)

    It's unfortunate when we overshoot the mark like this. Black is the darkest color and therefore connotes mystery, evil, absence and many other emotions universally associated with negative circumstances. Similarly, white is the brightest color and has naturally lent itself to uplifting and positive metaphors for centuries. This poem is really a testament to how askew we can allow our indignation about racism to become. Many, if not all, of the terms Zephaniah uses here predate African American slavery by several centuries; some originate in the Middle Ages. So while it remains convenient and satisfying to interpret this piece as a clever play on words that perceptively exposes the racist ideology...immersed in [the english] language, it is, in fact, mere exaggeration. If you look close enough, you can tell that the author was aware of diz. Racism is very real, very tragic, and is not best conveyed through tongue-in-cheek aphorisms. (Report) Reply

  • Jetty J Newnham (11/14/2012 7:33:00 PM)

    Andrew James what can you possibly know about english culture, many of us accept that ours is a multi-cultural society, its shame people with an attitude like yours still have the use of a brain when really a spinal cord would suffice! All power to Benjamin (Report) Reply

  • Iman Farrell (6/23/2009 4:15:00 AM)

    Thank you Ali! Also A. James - why even waste time reading these poems if you know you don't like them?

    Iman xx (Report) Reply

  • Ali Newton (6/13/2009 5:49:00 PM)

    Andrew James why bother wiritng the same comment on every single poem by this man. Not only does he make politics accessible heuses language and rythm to add power and strength to the concepts behind it. Just because you are racist/ignorant, does not lessen this mans talent and control of language. (Report) Reply

  • Andrew James (9/29/2008 2:44:00 AM)

    drivel... evidence that english culture is falling into a cesspool of illiterate dunderheads... zephaniah's ouvre is empty headed drivel... he has little to say other than preachy diatribes imparted with trivial insights slapped together for mass consumption and appeal...

    sadly i agree with his politics and share concern for the realities facing the non-white world... i also respect his passion for his subject... that does not make him a good poet or me a good politician... (Report) Reply

  • Agustina B (7/27/2005 3:14:00 PM)

    An ABSOLUTELY amazing poem that highlights how racist ideology is immersed in language and makes the reader see his point by playing with language. Zephaniah achieves his goal of both criticizing the dominant standard and at the same time empowering the languages spoken by those who once were colonized by the empire and one of its most efficient ways of depriving the colonized of their culture and nature: imposition of language. A masterpiece by one of the best poets of our times. (Report) Reply

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