Two black teenage girls linger in front of a Boys & Girls Club off of the main drag of a town that is big for Vermont but never the less minuscule. One leans lazily against a brick wall. They seem to be arguing about something interesting enough to animate them but not important enough to take seriously. The conversation soon devolves into a trickle of half-hearted teasing comments,
“You’re mama’s so stupid, she can’t find her way out of the co-op parking lot.”
“Yeah? Well, yo mama’s ass is so big, she can’t fit through the door when she gets there.“
“Yo mama’s ass is so white…” She doesn’t finish her sentence, letting the silence dictate her victory.
I inhale deeply and try not to break my stride. The word “white” sounds like the moment of impact when hammer and chisel meet. Abrasive, like flakes of stone flailing to the ground. White like lambs and judgment and God. I want to tell her that she doesn’t know what she just did. I want to say, “Once you go real, you can never come back.”
I want to talk about how I grew up convinced I wasn’t authentic enough for my own name. About how I spent three months in Peru and yet I still play Anglo when I go into Mexican restaurants. I want to tell her how disappointed in myself I am of all the times I said “she” because I was embarrassed to be asked about my pronouns. I want to say you don’t have to play that game.
You can help one another be brave. Because you’re young people. Because you’re becoming women. Because on this street in this moment, it doesn’t matter how white her mama’s ass is when passersby are thinking nuisance and street crime and holding their purses a little closer to their bodies.
I want to tell her that I fell in love with the first person who treated me like I was real. I want her to know she can be that for someone. It’s a choice.