my sister's complexion

my younger sister
never allowed fun
to limit her imagination.
at a mere five years old,
she decided she wanted to become an ice cream truck driver
at six,
she wanted to save the world.
seven,
she wanted world peace.
eight,
world peace.
nine,
world peace.
ten,
love.
eleven,
a boyfriend.
twelve years,
nine months and three days,
lighter skin.
i remember her
questioning days in pre-school
what color am i? she’d ask.
and her inquisitiveness
never allowed black to be accepted
as a proper answer.
Ruthie, we share the same color
but not the same complexion.
too much melanin, not enough skin.
the people in your pigment are waiting for a prayer
to be prayed back to the hands that once found
power in praying.
let not the lashes of historical context blind judgment.
they oppressed our kind.
feared the golden in your flesh
so they bore a color wheel of acceptable shades
and suggested brown be bad.
she laughs at black jokes, but don't dare be one.
and somewhere between spanish sailboats
and slave ships
you lost the strength in stride.
you let them white-wash your worries
and bury your woes in waste.
they beat her blue until she bled acceptability,
not blackness.
But
pale isn’t perfect
and black isn’t bad.
embrace the dirt in your darkness
for what could explain the foundation
that fertilized your fancy
better than you?
your people stomped on grounds
they called home
and sprouted seeds of
brown
black
beautiful
babies,
you.
she questioned God’s existence today.
she questioned why her skin tone was
the color of disease,
but she knows not the shade of ailment.
our culture brought freedom
to a situation where we could only see bondage.
I want to tell her to not hate God,
not even close,
not even a little bit,
not even at all.
that our black is not rooted in shame.
that she should not feel ashamed,
or silenced,
or transparent.
I want to tell her to
enjoy the diaspora in her Africa.
she's thirteen today.

Ruthie, i know some days you wish to unzip skin & escape color but.. i love the shade of brown you wear. i hope that’s enough to convince you someday.

Do not wait for our mother to be dead to inherit yourself.
Nourish your plateau.
Find the strength in your coffee,
and never let the brown in your body stop dancing.

Guide that inspired this poem: 

Comments

Need to talk?

If you ever need help or support, we trust CrisisTextline.org for people dealing with depression. Text HOME to 741741