This is my entry for the Simon and Schuster challenge. It is like nothing I've ever written before, but I like this one most out of anything I've ever penned.I believe American could have become this very easily. Where would you have fit into this society? Would you have the power or none at all? Is Chanse and her tribe evil or just a product of history and environment? Not so easy to tell, is it?
I am called lucky.
My skin is the color of the burnt sugar Grann stirs with her old wooden spoon as it bubbles and then cools to make sweeties. They tell me I was born the color of new butter, but Grann raised me up to worship the sun, and until my first blood, she placed totems blessed by loas under my bed on every new moon. This, she said, is what sweetened my blood, pulling up the yellows, oranges, and reds to color my skin’s surface.
My hair is the color of sunlight filtering through a wood’s dying leaves in the Fall. I witnessed a true Fall once, as a Philadelphia child. One Fall jumping in dead leaves I can remember before we were chased back to New Orleans to escape the shame of a baby like me coming out of a mother like mine.
My eyes are green as the grass grows on the first true day of true Summer. Granpapa says green is lucky, like money, like the alligator in the marshlands that once saved his life, like the lushness of the jungles from where the First People first sprang.
Yet, I am not called lucky because my hair, my skin, my eyes worship the Great Mother, Erzulie, and all Her glorious Creation.
My mama named me Chanse, meaning lucky in my family’s old tongue of Creole, despite these things.
I am lucky my family’s name protects me, a half caste baby conceived by a Black woman and White man. There are many who wish someone like me dead, who still want people like me to be disposed of as abominations. That a Black woman like my mother would lay down with a man of the inferior race and conceive a female child is inconceivable. Everyone knows that females of every tribe carry the power and the name. What my mother did was an affront to her power and her name, and to the blood that was spilled to cast the White man back across the sea.
I used to wonder, but I now understand why I am lucky. I now know. In a country where the worst thing you can be is a White man, and the second worst thing you can be is a White woman, I am lucky that the White blood of my long ago ancestors and the White blood of my father did not fully manifest itself in me.
I am lucky, that despite all of the bright colors running through me, I was born Not White.
It is my 12th year in school and my 18th year within this body on this earth.
We have never celebrated Euro history before, but this year my school must observe it. With the integration of our school system to include Whites, instructors encourage us to learn with them and understand their history.
We have been taught that before the Great Cause, all White people did was kill, rape, pillage, and steal. They did nothing worth celebrating. All achievements were reached off of the backs of the civilizations they conquered and stole from.
All Not Whites across the world know these truths, yet here I am, listening to Instructor Lee talk about White people’s contributions to our society.
I roll my eyes and look around me to see if my classmates are as bored as I am. Most roll their eyes or make faces back in agreement.
Yet, many of them do not.
Since integration, some of my friends look at me like they are seeing my true colors, the ones I have been told to demure my entire life; the glint of emerald in my eyes, the pearly undertone of my skin, the fire shade of my hair that does not kink no matter how much wax I use or how small I make my braids every night. These colors remind my friends that I have more Europe than Africa running through my veins.
As I find myself often lately doing, I rejoice inwardly, thankful that my family’s name is in the Great Book.
I am great. I am important. I am protected.
A White girl named Tansy, always asking foolish questions, raises her hand and says, “We Euros aint all bad people. Abraham Lincoln was'n the last White Pres'dent of Old America. Abolishuns ended slavery fore the First People revolted. Why all the White people still paying for what our dead great grands did?”
She nods her head toward me and points, “Look at Chanse’s skin and lookin at me. She looks like that; she so bad then?”
I feel the red in me rise, prepared to call her the name we are forbidden to call them. But then, I remember the plans of my grandparents for me, and the expectations of the Elders, and the sad eyes of my mama.
I remain silent.
My best friend, Kaima, throws her pen at Tansy and tells her, “You smell like a dog when you’re wet and you burn in the sun. You lived in caves, ate each other, and had sex with animals. You are stupid and evil.”
She gestures to the Not White people in the room, even Instructor Lee. “Meanwhile, all of our people were kings and queens. We built pyramids, created modern mathematics, and recorded the foundations of language. That’s why, slaver.”
The Not Whites in the class laugh. Kaima never lies.
She is my best friend. She says what I cannot. Her skin is as dark as the night sky during the new moon. Her hair is as soft and billowy as cotton. She wears beauty and strength as her colors. I sometimes envy her freedom. I always love her.
Instructor Lee just shakes her head and tries to finish her lesson. I’m sure she doesn’t want Tansy and her kind here either. Whites are not as smart as the rest of us, and they are always causing trouble. Bussing them in from their neighborhoods to mix with us two years ago caused a storm all over the country-from our nation’s capital in New Orleans trickling down to instructors’ lodges in the 32 states. Quite a few teachers left the profession in protest.
There are rumors that Ms. Lee is also half-caste, but it is not as much of a shame on her as it is for me. Whites in Old America didn’t quite enslave her people. Asiatics came here willingly, and got paid for their labor. Still, during the Great Cause, they, along with the Aztecas and Natives joined the First People-free Blacks like my ancestors and revolted slaves-in battle for the Great Cause.
Today, Not Whites comprise the four Great Tribes of our country. My family sits at the table of Elders in New Orleans along with the other great families. Our names are in the Great Book for helping to end the scourge of slavery and freeing this nation from the evils of the White race.
The First People killed the slave masters and sent those they pardoned back to Europe. The Euros that stayed were placed in servitude to build a new nation. Their debts were eventually paid, but their sins will never be forgotten.
The way I look is a daily reminder of these sins. The sins of my mother for laying with a White man and the sins of my father’s people for existing as a virus on this earth.
I leave History class with my skin feeling hot, and feel the brightness of my colors stifling me.
Kaima and my other friends call my name, but I run down the hall to escape into the sun.
Brandon Branch and his friends stand in front of the exit door at the end of the hall. They are wearing shirts with old flags of their ancestors’ native countries on them. Ireland, France, England, Germany, even the old flag of this country before the Great Cause set us all free.
White Pride they call this, wearing old flags, talking about the White tribe as inventors, thinkers, and emperors from a time long ago.
They know these stories they believe are all lies, but they do it anyway. They should let it go. They lost. We won.
We won because we are the First People from where all life sprang. We absorb the sun’s power while all they ever do is feed on our light. We won because we had the might of the Natives, Aztecas, and Asiatics on our side. We won because the drums we brought with us from our homelands in Africa were steadily building to a crescendo of war while they sat fat and lazy in their big houses out of the sun. They beat, maimed, raped, and stripped us of our identities. Yet, we raised their children and cooked their food and built their country with our blood, sweat, and sacrifice.
The songs we sung while in the fields were filled with promises of freedom and vengeance. We used the drums and their silly religion to mask our plots and schemes. We danced at night to rejoice about how we would time soon come fertilize our lands with their blood.
The ancestors looked to Haiti as an example, a nation shining as a beacon of hope that the masters could be defeated. Toussaint Louverture’s victory inspired them to first throw off their mental chains of bondage. They waited one generation, prepping their children to slowly poison and make complacent the White masters.
When the war drums sounded, the melanin tribes of Old America rose up. We killed the first borns, the fathers, and the mothers. Most of those left were the babies who knew more of the slaves than they did of their own dead families.
The slavers who lived, they either fled across the ocean in defeat or stayed and became servants to us. We rebuilt this country in our images. Their numbers will never again swell. The Elders ensure this.
They can never be trusted again, and they never will be.
To know I come from that blood disgusts me.
For that, I sometimes hate my mother.
For that, I will never acknowledge Brandon Branch or any man like him.
He winks at me, blowing a kiss as I push past him and his friends to find the sun. He foolishly flirts. He must not know that I could tell my Granpapa and by dawn he would be hanging from a tree in the bayou, his penis stuffed into his mouth as both a warning and a curse.
I wonder that I won’t.
I look down at the ring on my right hand. Its colors glint in the sun. Mama gave it to me the night I first danced with Oshun in the swamp like all the women in my family have before me, even before we were free.
The sun I was raised to worship comforts me as does the ring winking and twinkling on my hand. Its gems are the colors of the flag; blue, green, red, black. Blue for the ocean we crossed. Green for the land. Red for the blood. Black to honor the ancestors.
Colors comfort me like sweeties or prayers or a song.
For some reason, I think of my daddy. He saw me once a year in secret until I learned my name’s true meaning. That is when I asked Mama to stop taking me to see him. Then I asked him to stop calling. Then to even stop writing.
Then he died.
The last time I saw him he told me it was good my skin had darkened from the sun. He said it was good that my hair curled, even under water. He told me to press my thumb down hard on my nose every day to make it rounder, flatter, less like his.
I laughed at him, but even then, I could see in his eyes that he hoped it would work.