I started writing about George Floyd and my reaction to his murder and then stopped, because no matter what I wrote, no matter what verbiage and language I used, it felt wrong, hollow, when I meant it to be anything but that. So instead of trying to talk about a man I never met I’m going to talk Ms. Margret. I met Ms. Margret when I was almost five years old. To this day I can’t say how old she was except old enough to have a daughter who was at least eighteen at the time, which made her older than my mom, who was about twenty eight at the time.
The first year mom was in the Army there wasn’t any family housing available, so we found ourselves living in a trailer park just outside the post while on the housing waiting list. Ms.Margret was our neighbor and at some point she agreed to watch my sister and I while my parents were at work ,which mostly meant after school and in the evenings but sometimes stretched to late night if mom had CQ duty or dad had the closing shift at Burger King.
I remember watching Matlock and Murder, She Wrote with her when I was home from school sick She always asked about my day at school and never let anybody get away with making fun of me if she knew about it. She taught me that white people aren’t the same color as a white shirt or Crayon but more of a peach color, she was the first person to teach me the word Caucasian. She also told me that very few black folks were the same shade as a black crayon, that most were brown like coffee or chocolate.
No one ever treated her badly in front of me as far as I can remember but she did teach me a very specific thing when I was small, never touch a black woman’s hair without asking and don’t even think about asking a black woman you don’t know very well because she might slap you across the face for being rude. We were having this discussion because I had noticed that her hair looked different from any other woman’s hair that I’d ever seen and I asked why so she let me touch after imparting that very serious warning. I was honestly shocked that anybody would do something as personally invasive as touch a stranger’s hair because of course it was rude. She assured me that it happened to black women and girls all the time because some people didn’t have the sense God gave to goats, or five year olds.
Years later that conversation still sticks with me. It rings in my ears with every black soul torn away from this mortal coil by violence. Did she know that the small impoliteness she warned me of was one of the least indignities visited upon black people? Of course she knew but I was five and there was no reason to explain the harsher realities.News of each death breaks my heart a little and I give thanks to all all the people of color who raised me up when I was young . Those who taught me, not to be color blind but to see the injustices often served to people of color.and stand in opposition of them It’s been thirty years now and I have no idea where Ms. Margret is, but I hope she knows how much I love her