Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "It's Not Easy"

This is today's freebie, prompted by my_partner_doug. It also fills the "Family Visit" square in my 1-1-20 card for the Less Usual Bingo Patterns fest.


"It's Not Easy"


Rhodey had finally managed
to make it to Avengers Tower,
but he muttered and grumbled
around the common room until
Tony dashed off for "the good stuff."

"I'm sure it will work out," Phil said.
"Meanwhile, pull up some couch."

Rhodey flopped onto the cushions,
making the couch creak a little.

"What's bothering?" Bruce said.
"Maybe we can help with it."

"The Air Force is just kind of
racist," Rhodey said. "They tend
to promote white pilots over black, and
other favoritism. You know how it goes."

"Uh, not really, no," Bruce said,
clearly confused. He had lost
his India tan and reverted back to
the pallor of a happily lab-living nerd.

Rhodey raised his eyebrows.
"You really don't see it?" he said.

"Whatever it is, I don't see it
either," Phil said. "Please unpack."

"Maybe it's harder for Bruce to spot
because he's in between, like Creoles,
but he's still a man of color," Rhodey mused.
"Anyway, there's a difference between how
whites treat each other and everyone else.
You can't possibly have missed that
they consider you property, though."

Bruce grimaced. "No, that I got.
But it doesn't make me a man of color."

"Yeah, but look -- they treat you worse
than a white man, but better than Hulk,
who actually is green," said Rhodey.
"When you talk, people believe you
over him, but a white person over you."

"That's not ..." Bruce said, but
trailed off, clearly thinking.

Phil got a sinking sensation
in his stomach as he recalled
some of the briefs he'd seen.

Plus the Avengers had let Bruce
get away with badmouthing Hulk
for far longer than they should
have, just because ... Bruce
looked like them and Hulk didn't.

Phil winced. This was not good.
He wasn't sure what to do, though.

"It isn't just you and Hulk, either,"
Rhodey said, kicking the couch.
"It's everyone with a different color.
Beast is blue, the Thing is orange,
and they get a lot of the same shit."

I don't answer to my slave name.

He'd read that in a report about
Mystique: if you interrogated her, you
had to use the name that she'd chosen,
or she wouldn't say one word more.

Mystique, who was blue, and
preferred her own skin to ...
passing as a white girl.

Shit shit shit. Phil rubbed
a hand over his face.

"Well, yeah, the cops
don't like Hulk and Thing,
but that's because they wreck
the streets," Bruce said.

"You're not exactly fond of
them either," Phil pointed out.
"I don't think that's random, Bruce,
I think you're responding to a pattern."

"They started it," Bruce muttered.

"Exactly!" Rhodey said, stabbing
the air with a finger. "That's my point.
People are acting on prejudice,
based on your skin colors."

Phil desperately needed
to call the Baxter Building and
talk to ... Sue, probably, because
he doubted that Ben would have
much more grasp of this than Bruce.

Tony bounded out of the elevator
with an armload of booze. "I'm back!"

"Tony, back me up," Rhodey said,
waving. "Is Hulk a man of color?"

"Well duh," Tony said. "He's
green. Green is a color."

"Everything is some color,
Tony, that's not the same thing
at all," Bruce said, glaring at him.
"It's not easy keeping things in check
when people mess with me."

"Also they keep trying to enslave
the two of you, which didn't we already
fight a war about this?" Tony said.
"Oh yeah, we did, and stupid lost."

Then he flipped a red-and-gold card
at Rhodey. "Come on, let's go."

The older man caught it as it
bounced off his chest. "Go where?"

"To make some donations until we
feel better," Tony said. "I'm sure
the NAACP would be thrilled -- or
we could do scholarships instead.
Hit Lincoln University, Hampton,
the whole nine yards. Make
the bigots cry. Whaddaya say?"

Rhodey gave a ragged laugh.
"I never could say no to you
when you get like this."

"Yes!" Tony crowed, then
towed him toward a back room.

Phil could hear them dialling
before the door closed.

"Do you think ..." Bruce said,
looking over at Phil.

"Think what?" Phil said.

"That there's any merit
to what Rhodey said?"
Bruce asked, picking
at a thread on his jeans.

Phil mulled it over. "I think
he's black, and that means
he knows more about it than
you and me put together."

"Guess I can't argue
with that," Bruce said.

Then an alarm sounded,
and Steve burst out of
the common bathroom
soaking wet and yelling,
"Avengers assemble!"

Phil checked his shrieking phone.
Rock monsters were assaulting Harlem.

Bruce cringed. "Please don't make me
go back to Harlem," he whined.
"It's not easy dealing with --"

"Sorry, Bruce, but we need
our heavy hitter," said Steve.
"You can wait to suit up
until we actually get there."

Bruce grumbled all the way
to Harlem, but he suited up.

War Machine joined them too.

With another aerial combatant,
they had an easier time making
headway against the rock monsters.

Hawkeye made good use of
his explosive arrows.

Black Widow focused
on evacuation, with Hulk
smashing rock monsters
that tried to reach civilians.

Iron Man and War Machine
worked surprisingly well
as a team, setting up
opponents for each other.

When the last one went down,
the Avengers gathered inside
the perimeter to check on status.

And then Hulk walked out of the dust
carrying four black children while
singing, "It's Not Easy Being Green."

Hulk unloaded his tiny passengers
in front of Agent Smith. "Bad cop,"
he said, pointing over his shoulder.
"Two blocks. Suit protect?"

"We sure will," said Agent Smith.
"Thank you for rescuing the kids."

The paperwork was going to be
a nightmare, but Phil didn't regret it.

With a little luck, Harlem might even
convince Bruce that Hulk was their hero.

* * *

Notes:

The following two things directly contradict each other:

"As far as I'm concerned, that man's whole body is property of the U.S. army."
Gen. Thaddeus Ross

The 13th amendment to the United States Constitution provides that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

Raven, I asked you a question.
I don't answer to my slave name.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Historically black colleges mostly appear in the east and part of the south, as shown on this map.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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