"Justice For All," They Say

a spoken word poem. watch the full performance here.


“Justice For All,” they say.

It’s written in ink, etched into the land where we stand.

It’s the concrete floors of our nation.

It’s the roots that inhabit our soil.

It’s why people beg and plead and dream to come to this country.


But little do they know,

the roots of this nation have rotted.

And they still spoon-feed us the pledge,

forcing empty phrases down our throats

but when we can’t stomach it, digest it, process it, believe it,

it gets stuck in our throats.

It gets stuck in my throat.


Like zombies, we rise up from the dead each morning.

Like robots, we’re programmed to say the pledge.

But these orders are no more than a false sense of purpose,

no more than an illusion of unity.

They tell me the story of intertwined hands

but I only see fists that kill.


America: land of the free, home of the brave.

So free, we see innocent Ahmuad and Breonna shot dead.

So brave, the words spiced with hate still roll off of their tongue.

Because when George Floyd said “I can’t breathe”,

the Asian cop turned a blind eye and

looked away from “one nation under god”,

looked away from “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.

The Asian cop looked away,

even though he knows what it’s like,

should know what it’s like to have cried and died and tried for better lives,

to have carried metal bars on our backs when they demanded train tracks,

to have shoveled and dug when they craved for more gold.

But he still stood on the side of the oppressor.


And so the reporters broadcast the hate that poisons our nation

and announce what our country has vowed to renounce.

They give us a sugar-coated, “We’re sorry”,

“This won’t happen again”

but we know it’s going to happen again

because hey, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Right?


We’ve been lied to by this country’s empty promises

and right now, “corruption” and “justice” seem synonymous.

Will I have to tell my children how they’ve cast us away?

Repeating “Justice for All”, or so they say.


- Julianne Tenorio