19 pages 38 minutes read

Danez Smith

It won’t be a bullet

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2017

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Historical Context

Danez Smith’s poetry often deals with issues surrounding race, identity, and being gay. In an interview with The Guardian, Smith says their use of they/them pronouns is appropriate because they are speaking up not only for themself but for members of their community. “They” is both gender-neutral and signifies plurality.

They came to prominence during a time of political and social turmoil in America—a crumbling economy, increased gun violence, and greater recognition of police violence toward African Americans, specifically men. America was debating issues of gender fluidity, and gay and transgender people continued to battle for civil rights. On August 9, 2014, police in Ferguson, Missouri fatally shot Michael Brown, Jr., bringing national attention to how police often execute unarmed Black people and walk away. Over the years, more police murders continued to spark awareness of injustice, calls for police reform, and protests against police violence. Many in the African American community spoke out about the brutality they routinely face.

Camera phones and sometimes police body-cam footage played a large part in exposing the reality behind the large number of fatal police incidents in the US against racial minorities. While the Ferguson shooting was notable, it was part of an ongoing continuum of racial inequity at the hands of police (police shootings are by no means the only way Black men can fall victim to America’s high level of gun violence, and Smith’s poem addresses this to some extent).