by Jayla Busterna
By: Jayla Busterna
I am the light-skinned sister.
Light enough that they give a seat at the table
When company comes,
but dark enough that they ask for my silence.
Afraid that if I have the power to speak I might become more
than just a token.
Afraid I might break the myth of their “post-racial” America.
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
My substitute teacher asks me, “what are you?”
Her eyes searching my body to find the answer of my ambiguous racial identity
“Your hair is beautiful, but really what are you? Black girls don’t have hair like that.”
Black or White
My identity fluid.
My lighter skin
Helps them white-wash me more easily
My straight hair makes it easier for them to call me beautiful
Like the blacker you are, the less you are worth.
America still can’t see that black is beautiful.
American still can’t hear that
I, too, sing America.
But still my voice does not matter
Because to you I’m dark enough to be
criminalized, dehumanized and ignored.
Black means dangerous.
Black means prison.
Black means poor, EBT, welfare.
I try to be what you want me to be
I try to act like an American
I try to sing America, but you can’t hear my song.
You tell me to look presentable
You tell me to not wear clothes that will be too tempting
When I speak up,
When I defend myself
you call me
Light-skinned girls are easy.
Light-skinned girls are conceited.
These words leave me isolated.
These words drive us apart.
These words tear me down.
I melt like a
candle burning at both ends,
Just waiting for the flames to meet,
when there is nothing left to burn.
This is not the new
America, this is not the
Land of the brave
Nor the free
Not for me
My seat at the table has strings attached.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.