Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sister Against Sister

"My sister's White," Jenna said. "You wouldn't recognize her." She squinted her almond eyes in a gesture that managed to be sad, angry, and derogatory at the same time. "She doesn't look anything like me."

The speaker herself looked like a train wreck in a DNA yard; almond eyes, coffee-colored skin, straight dark hair, and thick lips. Lord knows how many members of how many different races had taken a shine to each other in order to create this uneasy amalgam of racially distinct features. But I knew she didn't like the way she looked very much, because she was quite outspoken about letting you know. Still, when the topic of her sister came up, the wound that had wrapped itself around her identity opened afresh, and a harsh flow of partially coagulated bile poured out.

"She's White," she spit out again, as if it was a curse, or something to be jealous of, or some undecipherable combination of the two. "And she has blue eyes."

I couldn't speak for a moment, my own physical identity surging up in my awareness. Pale skin, blue eyes. That's me. The force of the child's hatred had hit me like a wall. Cringing only a little bit, I gathered my wits around me to respond.

"I have white skin and blue eyes, Jenna."

No response. A clouding of the face, perhaps, but no response.

One more try, I thought.

"Only a big sister would say that with such venom, Jenna."

The cloud thickened, and she spoke. In her voice, the tone of pure betrayal, the tone of pure envy merged.

"She's White!"