by Mia McKenzie
Yesterday, while driving, I was stopped at a light and I saw a little boy, maybe six years old, waiting with his mother to cross the street. The way he stood, with one hip jutted out and a hand on the other hip, filled me with happiness. He had very large eyes and long lashes and as he looked around, he seemed to take everything into his small self, his eyes bright with excitement over the woman selling strawberries on the corner, and the sounds coming from the barber shop. As they started to cross the street, as they started walking, the mother reached over and grabbed the boy’s shoulder and said, “Stop walking like that!” The boy’s entire demeanor changed. His shoulders rounded, his head lowered. I couldn’t see his eyes anymore.
I thought about all the boxes black children are forced into. All children are forced into boxes, but for black children there is a particular urgency about it. When his mother said what she said, her voice sounded angry, cruel, but also scared. Because for black bodies, it’s a matter of survival, always. I don’t need to quote statistics. You know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, then this message is not for you.
This message is for the queer black kids, queer in all kinds of ways, including but not limited to different, gay, quirky, dykey, and fabulous, who are learning right now that they shouldn’t walk like that. Who are being told right now that there is shame in not being small enough to fit neatly into a box marked boy or girl. Who are being fooled into thinking that those boxes mean anything at all.
I want you to know I see you. With your hip out to one side. With your wide eyes. I want you to know that we are out here, too, that we were once you (in a way, because no one is exactly you), and we know.
We know how confusing it is when people talk about wanting you to be free, and then do everything they can to keep you from being free. We know what it is to wonder how freedom could possibly look like just the same old box.
Your mother may be trying to protect you. But hurting someone yourself to keep others from hurting them is really no kind of protection at all. I wish your mother knew that. I wish a lot of mother’s knew it.
Anyway, I just want you to know that I am out here, that we are out here and that we love the way you walk. That it fills us with happiness to see you being who you are, whoever you are. That there are people who cross your path every day and come away better for it. That you are a gift.
Keep switchin’ them hips.
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