Ruth

(For George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, 
Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and the countless others.)

I want to tell their stories,
remind the world
how they were
murdered by the system,
but when I try, all
I can think of is
Ruth.

The whitest white and the
blackest black are found
in churches and their
affiliated colleges.
I remember three Black
people in the entire school
my freshman year,
and one was my
assigned roommate,
Ruth.

I was 18. Twelve hundred
miles from home. Everything
seemed strange, but Ruth seemed
strangest of all. I was homesick.
I was sheltered. I was incapable
of seeing beyond a self I barely
knew, and I devised a way
(it wasn’t hard) to get reassigned,
moved away from
Ruth.

Every justification
I can offer (and I’ve made
a long list over the years)
drips with privilege.
Poor white girl far
from home, feels
uncomfortable, and every
administrative cog in a
great machine lurches
into action to set things
right for her.

I was unawake,
but aware enough to be
embarrassed.
Every time I saw Ruth,
she gave a sincere smile,
and she waved
and she said hi,
and she acted like
nothing had happened,
and I would feel
the disgrace
anew.

I silently bore the shame
of my inadequacy.
It was my secret.

Years later, I
finished two degrees
at an HBCU across
town, “the Black school.”
I learned the
greater part of all
I know from Black
scholars. I got smart
enough to shut up
and listen, to observe,
and to learn.

Then I began teaching
at my alma mater,
and to my knowledge,
not one of the Black
students in my classes
ever asked to be reassigned,
moved away from
me.

In order to share the
Story of Tamir and
Alton and Ahmaud,
I have to start with
Ruth, and I have to
understand that the
same system that
killed them is the one
that found a new
roommate for
me.

If I could find Ruth, I would
fall to my knees and
beg her forgiveness.
And the Ruth I remember
would give it, I have
no doubt.
I have looked for
her and I have hoped
for a chance to
be absolved.

It has not arrived,
and I’m glad it hasn’t,
for I need to stay
unpardoned,
unacquitted.
That is the energy
that fuels me now.
Ruth owes me
nothing. I owe her
a lifetime of fighting
the unpardonable.

I don’t equate
my actions with a boot
in the neck, but I have
come to accept they
are siblings.
Were they not, Eric and
Philando and Michael
would not have
told me from the grave
that I have to start
with the story of
Ruth.



© 2020 Deb Moore, All Rights Reserved

3 thoughts on “Ruth

  1. Deb, this is amazing. Thank you for caring and expressing it so eloquently and so heart-movingly (is that a word?) Miss seeing you at Unity. Much love and respect.
    Elsie

  2. Elsie I’m so glad you posted this and that you Deb shared it with us. It was so heart felt.

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