The words echoed.
A label for an animal,
Yet it was meant for me.
Did I have stripes on my skin?
Is that why eyes trailed along my length in public?
The same eyes bugged out when I walked with my father and mother.
My father black like a shadow,
My mother a porcelain doll white,
Children do not see mere skin color and cast judgement.
Yet in that moment in a local JC Penney store-
I developed stripes.
They cut my skin like claws.
Did I vary from the rest?
Judgement upon oneself at such an early age has a dastardly effect.
My seven year old eyes were opened in that moment.
Everyone is not the same,
Yet I saw no other who had stripes such as I,
The revelation continued on into my pre-teens,
Stripes still adorned my body during a time of predestined confusion,
gnawing, menacing anxiety.
Why am I different from the rest of my classmates--my teachers?
Why is my skin littered with contrasting stripes?
So I tried to blend in,
Paled my skin with makeup to cover those stripes, and avoided the sun,
Burned my hair between two flat rods of iron,
For once I was at an area of semi-peace.
But the burned hair and pale skin wasn’t who I wanted to be.
The elderly lady who pointed,
Reveling with distaste at the combination of two races,
Began this cycle of self loathing.
I did not look similar to my classmates,
In reality there was nothing to loathe.
People are entitled to their opinions but-
A mix is what created me.
With this realization came a flourished sense of self,
I kept my hair curly and embraced my golden skin.
My color is something to embrace.
In that small moment my life was majorly affected,
It opened up a space within that allowed room for self-tolerance,
And in turn tolerance for others despite contrasting aspects.
I continue to grow a constant feeling of assurance echos,
I am not a mere skin tone,
Nor are others,
I am not a “Zebra Baby.”
I am a creation of a connection between two past lovers,
I am a person of intelligence,
I am imaginative,
a writer and dreamer,
A future doctor and LGBTQ+ activist,
I am strong.
I am me.
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