Anthropology Magazine
Poem / Human Rights

Middle Ground

A poet-bioarchaeologist of the African diaspora confronts echoes of the Middle Passage in contemporary anti-Black environments.
The image shows the dark bottom of a boat floating on the water and the outline of small fish.

Clelia Michelini/Getty Images

Middle Ground - Listen
1:27

“Middle Ground” is part of the collection Lead Me to Life: Voices of the African Diaspora. Read the introduction to the collection here.

Dear one,
With your chocolate eyes and caramel skin
You hide the bruises of an unkind world so well
The way they pet your curls and pay you less
Their snub of your nose and jealousy of your curves
Have you learned yet to navigate their systems?
Have you learned to play their games?

Dear one,
These waters are treacherous
And filled with so much blood
Ancient chains on elders’ bones
Unwilling, unrelenting, testify
Bondage is the only middle ground
The gasp of the deep
Shares the silent watery screams, Dear one,
Of the brokenhearted

Dear one,
Grant your pounding heart a moment
Your steps may falter in a world that blames you
When your skin is the color of the rape
The product of centuries of hands
Ripping the resources from your soul
You have permission to reel
As the veil is uncovered

Dina Rivera is a bioarchaeologist whose work focuses on the ethical responsibility of scientific engagement in virtual spaces, as well as the healing closure offered by human remains repatriation. She received her master’s degree from the University of South Florida and is currently the administrative and communications coordinator of the Register of Professional Archaeologists. Rivera is currently collaborating with a global set of professional archaeologists to decolonize and diversify archaeology. Follow her on Twitter @dangergrrlie.

Love our work?
Your support keeps SAPIENS accessible to all.
(RE)THINK HUMAN
Get our newsletter with new stories delivered to your inbox every Friday.
Love our work?
Your support keeps SAPIENS accessible to all.
(RE)THINK HUMAN
Get our newsletter with new stories delivered to your inbox every Friday.