I Am the Maltese

I grew up thinking maltese was a synonym for black. I saw The Maltese Falcon when I was six, and the bird everyone’s after is ugly, yes, but it’s black, through and through, the magic of the movies making lead into my own kind of gold. The Maltese Falcon, black and proud.

I’d walk around saying, “What’s going on, my maltese brothers?”

The people in my neighborhood, they were very tolerant. We didn’t put up with sticking our crazies in mental hospitals. We kept them on the streets so we could keep an eye on them, make sure they were eating right and not killing people.

I’d say, “What’s going on, my maltese brothers?” and my friends would laugh, and their parents would laugh, and everyone would laugh, myself included.

Be honest. Maltese sounds black, just like corduroy sounds like a name for a white boy.

I’d say, “What’s going on, my maltese brothers and sisters?” because I knew that everyone wanted the Maltese Falcon, and if everyone wanted the Maltese Falcon, that was clearly because it was maltese. Because it was black. And everyone wanted to be black. Everyone wanted to be around blacks. Everyone wanted to hire blacks. Everyone wanted to be friends with blacks.

With blacks.

With the maltese.

What’s really going on, my maltese brothers and sisters?

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