whiteys on the moon

5 Easy Tips For Healthy Reading Habits

‘Whitey on the Moon’ was written by Gil Scott-Heron in 1970, just one year after Neil Armstrong took ‘one giant leap for mankind,’ in response to money being invested in space exploration when communities in America, African American communities especially, were still struggling.

“A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey’s on the moon)
I can’t pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)
Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still.
(while Whitey’s on the moon)”

the black vernacular

The Message

While he was making a more literal comparison, I think this poem still applies to a lot of modern issues in America today. It’s not just that we’ve invested in space exploration while people of color suffered, it’s that we continue to ignore the suffering of underprivileged communities.

We are always prepared to play the part of the savior in other countries, but we let starvation, poor health care, and illiteracy run rampant in our own. We can’t continue to put “Whitey on the Moon” when the poor are funding it, suffering for having funded it, and reap no benefits from it.

“The man jus’ upped my rent las’ night.
(’cause Whitey’s on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey’s on the moon)
I wonder why he’s uppi’ me?
(’cause Whitey’s on the moon?)”

Listening to Gil Scott-Heron’s passionate reading of this poem you feel the frustration of knowing that people of color are always the fodder for white advancement. We were the fodder for building a nation we could not be a part of. We were the fodder for war, only to return to a country where we were not equal. We’re the fodder for a workforce that no longer pays enough to afford the basic costs of living, even in the middle of a pandemic. We have done all of this for very little in return.

“Was all that money I made las’ year
(for Whitey on the moon?)
How come there ain’t no money here?
(Hmm! Whitey’s on the moon)
Y’know I jus’ ’bout had my fill
(of Whitey on the moon)”

the black vernacular

Lasting Impressions

The HBO show “Lovecraft Country” did an excellent job of illustrating this poem. The poem played over a scene where the main character, ‘Tic,’ was shown attempting to sacrifice his life for nothing more than the advancement of a group of Caucasian wizards paralleling the line, “Whitey” is on the moon, but who put him there? Who suffers for his progress? Who dies for it? It is fantastic that these advancements can be made, but what good are they if we still fail at home?”

With billionaires hoping to further monetize and market the space race, the feelings expressed by Gil Scott-Heron continue to resonate with a community oppressed, with a community impoverished. Jeff Bezos sent Sci-Fi legend, William Shatner, into space, and Shatner’s lesson from the trip was the realization that “we need to take care of the planet, but it’s so fragile.”

Imagine needing to be so far removed to have such a basic realization.

All marginalized communities are asking the Jeff Bezos’ and Elon Musks’ of the world, in all their grand efforts to put ‘Whitey on the moon,’ Is that the please remember ‘my sister Nell’ who ‘can’t pay no doctor bill, ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still, while Whitey’s on the moon.’

Read the Full Poem Here.

Recommended Listening

Click Link or Image Below to Purchase on Amazon:

%d bloggers like this: