whiteys on the moon

5 Easy Tips For Healthy Reading Habits

“Whitey on the Moon” was written by Gil Scott-Heron in 1970. He wrote this spoken word poem as a literal reference to money being invested in space exploration when communities in America, African American communities, in particular, 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 speaking literally, I think this poem applies to a lot of modern issues in America today. It’s not just that we invested in space exploration while the African American communities suffered. It’s that we continue to ignore the community’s suffering.

We continue to play savior in other countries while we have starvation, poor health care, and illiteracy run rampant in our own. We can’t continue to put “Whitey on the Moon” when the poorer communities are funding it, suffering for having funded it, and reap no benefits for 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?)”

Reading this poem and listening to it always drives home the point 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 and treated as less than. We’re the fodder for a workforce that barely pays enough to afford the cost of living. 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 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 white wizards. This was the perfect illustration for Gil Scott-Heron’s words. “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?

The biggest takeaway from this poem is ‘so what?’ What does it matter what you’ve done if people still suffer. Have you really made an advancement if it came at the cost of another person’s well-being? So what!? You’re on the moon! I can’t pay my bills. So what? What now that you’re on the moon? Now you can look down at the state of things. At the substantial suffering you left behind. “But 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: