What Would I Do White?

Jordan, June

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Aull, Felice
  • Date of entry: Aug-17-1998
  • Last revised: Nov-30-2006


The speaker conjectures on what it would be like to be white. Her question is a challenge and her examples are not flattering to whites. "I would forget my furs on any chair. / I would ignore the doormen at the knob . . . " and, finally, "I would do nothing. / That would be enough."


The gap between the speaker and what she conceives of as white is enormous. Not only would her white presence "disturb the streets" of a black neighborhood, but whiteness denotes supercilious oblivion, taking a life of ease for granted, and never having to prove yourself. The tone is disapproving. This poem, like Lucille Clifton's poem, in the inner city (see this database), makes clear that the culture of whiteness may not be anything that blacks wish to emulate.

Primary Source

No More Masks: An Anthology of 20th Century American Women Poets


Harper Perennial

Place Published

New York




Florence Howe