Invisible

Blue eyes
Peer at me
every week
over the wooden pew
I share
with my husband

A child’s face framed
by a halo
of golden curls

I smile but
she doesn’t smile
back

I’m certain she has never
seen white teeth against brown
skin in her church
before

Week after
week
I smile
and her blue eyes
widen

Until
“Mom,
she’s black!”

I smile
and she smiles back
her riddle solved

Her mother blushes
a polite pink
Eyes that dare not
meet mine

The girl’s smile disappears
beneath a gentle scolding

Mine disappears
behind stifled tears

For a brief moment
I had been seen
through the eyes
of a child

Open
Innocent
Curious

In her wisdom
she sees the truth
her mother cannot

We are
sewn together
by the common threads
that make us
human

not
torn apart
by the one black strand
that marks me as
Different

Now
I am invisible
once again

Feared because I am
Unknown

4 thoughts on “Invisible”

  1. You might be right in your conclusion, but understand that parents teach their children it is not polite to speak of a person’s appearance. Black, white, fat, skinny, tall, short, pimples, freckles, hair too curly, hair too straight… A better response from the mom might have been a smile (still blushing with embarrassment at her child’s forgetfulness of manners) and a word of agreement, then at home reminding her child of polite behavior. In the interim, the little girl might have spoken with you after the service and a connection already made. Then the sting of bad manners wouldn’t have brought the same reaction, and she wouldn’t fear you.

    1. Yes, Linda, I think you are mostly right about this. A few things I would note though. First, if my reaction had been appalled or angry I think it wouldn’t have been right to assume. But my reaction was one of enjoying the excitement and exuberance of the child. So it is a case by case study. Second, is noticing the colour of a person’s skin impolite? Especially when it’s a child? Most people know children and how curious they can be. I think if the child had called me the n word I might not want to have the conversation. Or if she’d called me fat. lol But being black, or being called it, is not insulting. Finally, having the conversation behind closed doors with your child is often where misinformation can happen. I agree, the sanctuary before a church service might not be the right place either. But including the person in the conversation (in my humble opinion) builds bridges to a healthier relationship. Why do these conversations happen at home? Instead of with the actual people themselves? How do parents “know everything”? If things like this are “only spoken behind closed doors” then there’s always the sense that this is a topic we don’t speak about in a civilized society. And I don’t believe that’s right. That’s just my opinion though. I’m sure there are others who think differently. πŸ™‚ But why not talk about it and see???

      1. I agree that a child stating the obvious in total innocence is charming. When I say “discuss it at home,” I’m simply talking about the general rules of polite behavior. With young children, it’s easier to give them the general rule of don’t talk about what a person looks like, and as the child gains social skills, we can discuss nuances within the general rule. Personally, I would like to see more open discussion among adults, much less children. I believe we would be delighted to discover how much we had in common as human beings, far exceeding minor differences.

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