We Wear The Mask. Black Women & Etiquette

We have always known better.

The great African-American poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar wrote: 

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,-
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!

--Paul Lawrence Dunbar, 1872-1906

Maid Lizzie and Cook Daisy at table. Life Magazine, 5 December 1938.
[Note. Neither woman was granted the courtesy of being identified by last name.]


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