Turnings

I was young and white
In New Orleans
In the middle years
Of the last century
Before the millennium
Turned

Everywhere
Everything
Was signed
“Whites Only”
“Colored”

To turn away
From a colored person
Was expected
Casual cruelty

Colored was dangerous
Colored was dirty
Colored was other

I had to learn
To unlearn
The inbred racism

I had to learn
To share my world
To turn towards

Yesterday
I left a store
As a black woman entered
We met in the doorway
Turned our masked faces
Away from each other
And said a mutual muffled
Thank you

And so
In the twentieth year
Of a new millennium
I learn that turning towards
Can sometimes look like
Turning away

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