I was 7 years old. Across the street lived an Euro-American girl (around 7 years of age as well) with long blond hair and rotten teeth named Anna. She often came across the street to play with us. Our house was an epicenter. I had 3 sisters close to my age, plus 2 African American girlfriends who lived next door, and a Cuban-American girlfriend the next house down, and lots of other neighborhood children with whom I played and roamed the neighborhood. Constantly busy in our play, a pack of us children, my big sister in charge, would roam down to the pond, pick fruit, pound rocks to powder, practice dance routines etc.
Anna had one brother who was a baby. She was often outside alone. Some days she would walk to the edge of her yard, and shout, “nigger!” at us. Other days, probably when she couldn’t stand the loneliness, she would meander over to our yard and play with us. We loved to dress up and play house or play dolls.
Now, Anna’s behavior didn’t upset us as much as it was just annoying. We tolerated her the way one tolerates a fly. Firstly, my mother spent hours on our hair, braiding, beading, rubbing essential oils into our hair, singing as she worked and whispering secrets into our ears. When finished, we would run to a mirror to admire the finished hairstyle and run outside to show our friends.
One day, we were playing and my mother, who had already been upset about Anna throwing dirt in our hair, overheard Anna growling about our hair being nappy, short, and ugly. We had been arguing when I felt my mother’s shadow and looked up. My sisters and I fell silent, but you could hear Anna going on and on. I saw my mother’s face; her eyes were fierce and her mouth twisted. Mom folded her arms across her chest. I just knew she was about to send Anna home, and have a talk with her mother. “Come on Anna, let me braid your hair,” my mother snapped motioning us into the house.
“Ma’am?!” responded Anna. We were all shocked. What did doing Anna’s hair have to do with this? Why would Mom invite her in when Anna was so mean and nasty?
“You want me to braid your hair?” Asked my mother.
“Yes, yes,” Anna smiled and clapped her hands. We all filed into the house Anna skipping behind us. We followed my mother to the livingroom. Mom sat on the couch with Anna between her legs and plaited her hair into winding cornrows with beads. I had never seen Anna so happy. For the first time, I saw a light in her face. My mother’s wisdom hit me. Anna wasn’t racist any more than our coiled hair, big noses, or lips were ugly! Anna wanted our hair!
Since then I have met many Anna’s in school, the workplace, and social media. So to the “white” woman (or anyone feeling inferior) who wants to talk about melanated women being masculine, ugly, loud, etc, I say with the wisdom of my mother, “Sure, I can show you how to be a Queen! I'm not less of a woman because of the crown I wear, and neither are you."