Women of the Early Harlem Renaissance: African American Women Writers 1900-1922

Uncle Rube on the Race Problem (Clara Ann Thompson)

'How'd I solve de Negro Problum?'
   Gentlemen, don't like dat wo'd!
'Mind me too much uv ol' slave times
   When de white man wus de lo'd.
Spoulin' roun' about 'My niggahs',
   Knockin' us fum lef to right,
Sellin' us, like we wus cattle,
   Drivin' us fum mawn till night, --
Oh, you say I'm off de subjec';
   Am a little off, I see,—
Well, de way to solve de problum.
   Is, to let de black man be.
Say, 'you fail to ketch my meanin'?'
   Now, dat's very plain to me,
Don't you know, you whites is pickin'
   On de blacks, continu'ly?
Jes' pick up de mawnin' papah,
   Anywhaur you choose to go,
When you read about de black man,
   You may bet it's somepin low.
It's all right to tell his meanness,
Dat's, pervided it is true;
But, why, in de name uv blazes.
   Don't you tell de good things tooi
No, I ain't a-cussin' either;
   Et my blood wus young an' waum,
Guess I'd sometimes, feel like cussin'.
   How you whites is takin' on.
Still, I don't hoi' wid dat business,
   Leave dat, fah you whites to do —
Cussin* an' a-suicidin',
   When de whole land b'longs to you.
Den, agin, ez I wus sayin', —
   Ef a black man makes a mawk,
Seems you white-folks will go crazy,
   Try'n' to keep him in de dawk.
An', ef he don't watch his cornahs.
   An' his head ain't mighty soun',
Fust he knows: some uv you white-folks
   Done reached up, an' pulled him down.
Whut you say? I'm too hawd on you?
   Whut you 'spected me to do,
When you axed me, my opinion?
   Tell you somepin' wusn't true?
Co'se dah's some exceptions 'mong you,
   An' I ain't denyin' it;
But dah's mighty few, I tell you,
   Dat kin say: 'Dis shoe don't fit.'
Yes, you say some blacks is 'on'ry;'
   So is many uv de whites;
But de black race mus' be perfec',
   'Fo' we git ou' 'equal rights.*
Foreign whites, fum ev'ry nation,
   Finds a welcome in dis Ian',
Yet, dah seems to be no welcome
   Fah de native cullud man.
You don't have to 'tote his skillet,'-
   Ez de folks in Dixie say, —
Only, when you see him strugglin',
   Don't you git into his way.
Co'se, ef you is got a mind to,
   You kin lend a helpin' han',
But de best help you kin give him,
   Is, to treat him like a man.

Look at all de great improvement,
   He has made since he wus free;
Yet, de white-folks keep a-wond'ring,
   Whut's his future go'n' to be.
All time talkin' 'bout his meanness,
   An' de many things he lack,
Makin' out dey see no progress,
   Doe dey're try'n' to hol' him back.
Oh, it ain't no use in talkin',
   Ef you whites would jest play faiah,
All de wranglin' 'bout dis problum,
   Soon would vanish in de aiah.
Once dey couldn't find no method,
   Dat would put down slavery,
Till it like to split de country.
   Den, dey set de black man free.

Dat's de way wid dis race problum:
   Ef de white-folks had a min',
Day could fin' a answer to it,
   Like dey did de other time.
Co'se, dah's two sides to dis problum,
   An' dah's things de blacks should do,
But I'm talkin' 'bout you white-folks,
   And de pawt dat b'longs to you.
'Don't know whaur to place de black man?'
   He will fin' his place; — You'll see!
Like de foreign whites is doin',
   When you learn to let him be.
'Den, you feah amalgamation?'
   When de black man takes his stan',
Don't you know he'll squar' his shoulders,
   Proud, dat he's a Af'ican?
In dis Ian', to be a black man,
   Isn't called a lucky thing;
An' dat's why some fools among us,
   Think it smawt to mingle in.
An' you white-folks isn't blameless,
   Some uv you is in dat too, —
Takin' ev'ry mean advantage,
   Dat is in yo' powah to do.
But, de race will reach a station,
   Whaur de blindes' one kin see,
Dat 'tis good to be a black man,
   Jest ez sho', ez sho' kin be.
Den, agin, sometimes I'm thinkin',
   Dat dis 'malgamation fright's
Jes' got up by you smawt white-folks,
   Keep fum givin' us ou' rights.
Fah, ef now, in all her trials,
 Mos* uv us stick to de race,
You know well, we won't fahsake her,
 When she gits a honored place.
'Be a nation in a nation?'
   Now you're talkin* like a fool!
Whut you mean by "Plur'bus unyun? — "
   Many nations 'neath one rule.
Not go'n* back on dat ol' motto,
   Dat has made yo' country's name,
 Jest because de race you brung here,
   Ax you fah a little claim?
Well, I 'spec' I mus' be goin',
   Gittin' kinder late, 1 see;
Guess nex' time 'Ol' Rube is passin',
   Gentlemen, you'll let him be.
Oh, you say, 'you bah no malice,'
   Well, I'd ruther have it so,
But I'll hol' up fah my people,
    Wheihah folks like it or no.

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