Race is one of the themes Terrance Hayes addresses in “Lighthead”. To do this he uses (at least) two different perspectives. In his poem “A House is Not a Home” he addresses race from his perspective as an African American. In the poem he wants to be able to describe the life of African Americans by explaining the sound of black culture. In the poem Hayes says, “More than anything, I want to work at the African-American Acoustic and Audiological Insurance Institute so that I can record the rumors and raucous rhythms of my people, our jangled history, the slander in out sugar, the ardor in our anger, a subcategory of which probably includes the sound particular to one returning to his feet after a friend has knocked him down”. In regards to “the rumors and raucous rhythms of my people” Hayes is referring to wanting to express things specific to African American culture. When Hayes talks about “one returning to his feet after a friend has knocked him down” he is referring to the difficulties African Americans have faced trying to overcome the discrimination created hundreds of years ago by slavery. The “friend returning to his feet” is the black community trying to push past the stereotypes and discrimination white people have placed upon them.
Hayes also refers to Luthor Vandross in this poem. Vandross is a deceased African American R&B singer. Using Vandross as the only historical figure in the poem further shows that Hayes is writing from the perspective of the black community.
Terrance Hayes’ poem “Tankhead” shows that the theme of race from a different point of view. This poem is about a World War II general named General Patton. This shows a different side of race because a large part of WWII involved Hitler’s persecution of the Jews, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Although General Patton is an American it is clear he does not share the American idea that all races should be equal. Hayes says, “’We can no more understand a Russian than a Chinese or a Japanese, and from what I have seen of them. I have no particular desire to understand them except to ascertain how much lead or iron it takes to kills them.’ Patton liked to say. People of all creeds are welcome here of course.” Patton believes that all people in Asia are the same regardless of their country of origin. He only cares about being able to kill them in the war. Patton does not appear to agree with the fact that all races are welcome in the US.
Also in “Tankhead”, in reference to Patton, Hayes says, “He called Robert E. Lee Jesus.” Robert E. Lee was on the Confederate side of the Civil War which supported slavery. This shows that Hayes is using Patton to show the ignorance of racism. Hayes further displays that Patton is used to show the stupidity of racism when he says, “Patton measured everything according to the shaft of his weapon. His word for penis was tank.” This line shows Hayes’ dislike of Patton because the poem is titled “Tankhead”, which is like saying penis/dick head, which seems insulting.