What does the poem "To a White Girl" mean?

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James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "To a White Girl" is, in my eyes, a clear demonstration of sexual fetish or obsession. The speaker (a black male, I think it's fair enough to say) reduces the white woman to her skin tone (he dismisses her manners and intelligence as irrelevant in lines 3-4) and assigns her all sorts of power over him. She fills and burns his thoughts. She receives all of his intense emotions, both love and hate.

The second stanza presents a set of metaphors that invert the traditional symbolism of white as good and black as evil. Or, if you will, this stanza embraces a common black nationalist symbolism of white as evil, as in the Nation of Islam's past characterization of white people as "white devils."

It's worthwhile to consider the place of thiis poem in Soul on Ice. The protagonist has just been released from prison and professes his hatred of white women. The poem is given. The protagonist then goes on to talk about how he hones his skills as a rapist, viewing the rape of white women as an act of vengeance against the oppressor.

I don't see the poem itself as expressing a desire to have revenge on anyone, but it certainly does objectify the woman (she is, to him, "white meat") and collapses two emotions (love and hate) that most (dare I add the word "sane") people would not collapse or confuse.

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Soul on Ice

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