Dear Donald,

Cortney Lamar Charleston

What's good? Big fan here from way back in your

Derrick Comedy days, black boy, big-city adjacent

just like you, like you a corny dude turned, well,

kind of cool on the cusp of 30-odd years running

in less the perfect circles, Billy Dee Williams cool

but watered down a bit like Kool-Aid for diabetics

at the cookout who still desire a little sweetness

in their lives, so when I jot down “how are you?”

right here, on this page, know I really mean that

as if we’re already familial. I mean, get your money,

black man! I dig it, I bang with the track honestly,

but tell me what life is now that you've actually got

real cheddar, a sum you can spread over the rest of

your days, and your children’s, like butter that we

can't help but believe in. Obama butter, if you will.

Something real that used to be just an unattainable

idea. That’s America wherever you are but this is

America over here, also, and it doesn’t always feel

so good; I don’t feel so good, my stomach slowly

turning to stone, and I bet you can understand why.

There’s a lot of long days, a lot of hard questions

pointed at the back of my head as the gun is to

the guitarist’s in your most viral video, his dome

bagged in a burlap sack or something, your eyes

so big and so scary and so damn scared (to me),

your hair unruly and probably breaking all kinds

of combs as if laws of possession, but that scene

is only one small America, and one that's kind of

a myth: black-on-black propagandist magic but

with the wires still visible everywhere. And that

brings me to the point in the video when the choir

is caught up in the spirit as they’re supposed to be

and then sprayed with bullets by way of your own

prodigiously talented hands: help me process that,

please. Charleston is my last name so we don’t need

to rehash the allusion at all, but damn. If there was

any point it shouldn’t have been you it was that one;

if there was any point it shouldn’t have been us

it was that one. You’ve given me the glorious gift

of Atlanta and gave me a migraine with that stunt,

which somehow even shortchanged shock value

since I didn’t see a single white person have to duck

shots during the whole video. And I do appreciate

the risk associated with that idea, not as an artist, but

as a brand, a man with bills to pay I probably can’t

even fathom. I, too, have to rewind and watch back

what I say before I say it, daydream the whole sorry

scene where I get escorted out of the building with

carceral bracelets chaffing my smooth wrists. Still,

my disappointment stands given how frequently I’ve

stanned for you through the mixtape years batting

back many a side-eye, before the tag of genius was

put on you by the masses left comfortably in the lie

of their lives by a choice to keep the burden of blood

entirely on us, the burden of national reckoning on us,

which I want to say is because you knew we could

handle it, that we could take it because we’re always

taking it, but if there’s any credibility left in the word

brilliant in this era of easy superlatives and hot takes,

you should’ve known we were fed up. You should’ve

known, Bino. You probably did and then did anyway,

but we don’t have the time for that, not these days.

Because this is America: can’t have us slippin’ up.


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