LITTLE GIRL: I told my mother I didn't want to be black no more. ... Man, she say even if you sitting in a vat of Clorox till hell freezes over, you ain't gonna be nothing but black. And she was right too, because I sat in the clorox and I got burned. And she say I just got to be happy with what I got, but look. See? It don't do nothing. It don't blow in the wind. And it don't casca--cascadadade down my back. It don't. And I put that bouncing stuff in it and it didn't even lift. And I want some other kind of hair to do something else. I do.
I laughed until I cried. I think of myself as pretty good with words, but I don't know if I have the skill to explain why this performance has stayed with me for all of these years. I think that it is because there was a piece of truth in Goldberg's show that spoke to me. I don't ever recall consciously wanting to be white, but I do recall wanting to be pretty, and pretty meant looking like Shirley Temple or Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet. There were no little black girls starring in movies and being presented as cute, talented, and smart.
The wounds gained from growing up in a culture that continually reinforces your status as a people without value, whose only purpose is to serve, who by virtue of the color of your skin and the texture of your hair are--inferior--other--less than-- do heal, but the scars remain. Ms. Goldberg's brilliant performance spoke to those scars, told me that I wasn't alone, reminded me that I shared an identity with a strong and resilient people who were not afraid to take a look at ourselves and share laughter as we struggled to overcome our adversity.
This morning when I got out of bed, I realized that my great nephew, Donovan Josiah will grow up in an America that offers hope and opportunity for him that I did not expect to see in my lifetime. I thought about my mama who died before she could see Barack Hussein Obama take the oath of office. I thought of the disrespect that she endured in her lifetime, the dignity with which she held her head high in the face of the realities of a society that worked over time to reinforce that black people were inferior. I recalled my father telling me of having to ride in the back of the bus as a boy while German POW's were allowed to ride up front, of his long journey to the west coast after enlisting in the military, again at the back of the bus. Even his uniform, worn in the service of his country wasn't enough to rate him a better seat. I recalled the doors that I could not enter, the signs that made it clear, "No Colored Allowed." I thought of all these things today and tears rolled down my face as Barack Hussein Obama took the oath of office, but the entire time that I was crying, I was laughing out loud with joy and when President Obama intoned "God Bless America," I whispered the words with him.