What if you were born there
And you knew how things used to be,
Watching your father come home each day
From the factory?
What if you had seen the ships come in
And you thought it might always be that way
And what if you watched that all disappear
When you awoke one day?

What if you knew where your landlord lived
On the other side of the river
In the resort town where you clean the floors,
Would you feel your lips quiver?
What if it was your brother who had the nerve
To date a white man's daughter?
What if you found him with rope marks on his neck
Lying in the water?

What if you'd been in prison for ten years of your life
For the crime of being black and poor?
What if every time opportunity knocked
It was a policeman at your door?
What if no one you knew had ever been to college
But everyone had been to jail?
What if you knew those drugs were planted by the cops?
Could you feel the cold steel rail?

What if it was yesterday and you were there
And you saw the high-speed chase
And you watched the cop car hit him, saw him fall
Saw the look upon his face?
What if you were a witness and you watched the cops
Kick him in the head?
What if he was your friend and you knew him well
And you watched him lying dead?

What if you had a wake and right there?
You could hear the sirens' blare
What if they called you criminals and yelled into their bullhorns
While you were blinded by the floodlight's glare?
What if someone lit a match and the wind blew the flame
At the abandoned foundry,
Hours from the dawn in the darkness of the night?
Through the fire, what could you see?

What if you were in Benton Harbor
On those hot nights in June?
Would you have joined your neighbors in the burning of the cop cars
Beneath the summer moon?
What if you were a city that has been abandoned?
Would you just crumple beneath the load?
Would you die in silence
Or might you just explode?


Lyrics submitted by concreteblues

Benton Harbor song meanings
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