I first wrote this as a Facebook post about 2 years ago. Back then I’d subject my friends to these little ditties. That was before I started my blog and started subjecting all of you to my ramblings. The news was awash in the death of young black men, each at the hands of those called on to protect and serve them, the police. Black Lives Matter was entering the mainstream consciousness and my son was starting to see color for the first time….
The other day I was sitting in my rocking chair, watching the news, drinking my hot tea. My son woke up and climbed into my lap, he’s getting so big, he can barely fit. It makes me feel small. He was chattering away, talking about his life, Lego’s, Minecraft, school. He paused for a moment, his attention caught on the latest headline, he sat up a little, looked at me and asked, “Mommy, why do the police like to kill black people?”
This is it. The moment when he starts to see color. Instead of blocks and Lego’s that he organizes into color and size, stacks them up and knocks them over, it will be people. Where do I begin? How do you explain to a 6 year old about slavery, racism, poverty, oppression, white privilege? I did my best. I probably failed miserably. I went on too long and he got up to watch cartoons in the other room.
I remember the moment I first saw color. I was probably 7 or 8. Shayla and Nikki invited me to sleep over at their house. Their mom, Annette and my mom worked together. We played all day outside with the neighborhood kids. Their mom gave us each a dollar and we went to the convenience store, which I’m pretty sure was located in someone’s living room. There were these large glass jars filled with colorful fluid on the counter, pink, orange and green. Shayla picked out something from the pink fluid. I like pink, I want one, too. It was spicy. We bought Now and Laters, Fireballs and Lemonheads. It was a feast. When the shadows grew long, we headed home for supper and baths. After baths, Annette lined us up and powdered us with baby powder from the neck down. That was different, my mom never did that before.
The next morning, I’m pretty sure Annette powdered us again, we put on our prettiest dresses and three giggly, silly girls walked into church. It seemed as if the moment we walked in, a lovely sea of black faces turned and stared directly at me. Their faces contrasted against the too white walls and bright sunshine coming in through the windows. I was startled. I remember thinking, I’m white, you’re black and I’m different. An older woman said, “Child, you look the white in the middle of an Oreo cookie.” She laughed, others chuckled, too and then they all started to ooh and ahh over our pretty dresses and the girls pretty hair.
Before long, the music started, then the singing, clapping, and dancing. We only went to church on special occasions and it was never as fun as this. I was soon forgotten, the only white face in the whole crowd. I soon forgot myself, lost in the music and worship. When I look back on the moment that I first saw color, it is a sweet, lovely memory. As I stood in the doorway of an all black church in Deerfield Beach, Florida, more white than usual because I was covered in baby powder, I remember the feeling of being different and then of being accepted and enveloped, like the white in the middle of an Oreo cookie.