Why? That was my only question as I looked in the mirror. Why couldn’t I be like everyone else? Why were my eyes dull and brown instead of bright and blue? Why was my hair a mess of brown frizz instead of a golden waterfall? And why wasn’t I a pearly white porcelain doll? I soaked my head under the water. Wash away. Wash it all away.
Gram came in and turned off the water. “What are you doing, Nina?”
I simply scowled at her and wiped off my face hoping the color would come off on the towel. I rubbed harder. Why wasn’t it coming off? My face was burning, but it was still the same color. Black. Why did I have to be black? Why couldn’t I be like Missy and her glam squad? Why couldn’t I have that privilege that everyone else in the school had? Just for one day, I’d kill to look like them. And maybe then I’d get some respect around these parts.
“Nina, answer me.”
“I HATE BEING A N*****!”
She looked about ready to faint hearing the ‘n’ word coming from my mouth. But it was true. That’s what I was. I heard all the taunts, the names, the jokes. I ran to my room, slamming the door behind me. In a fury of frustration, I began to throw everything I owned into my backpack. It wasn’t all that much. Gram didn’t have much money unlike Missy and Breidan and Kiki. We didn’t even have a car. They each had three. Just thinking about it made me pack faster and faster.
Gram cracked the door open before smiling sadly and sitting on the edge of my tiny bed. “Where are you going?”
“Africa,” I spat the words. “Where I belong.”
She nodded and then took a book from the dusty shelf. “I suppose you should read about it first. In case you don’t like the food or the clothing or the houses or the language.”
I shook my head. “It would be the same as we live here.”
“Really? What language would you like?”
She flipped through a couple pages. “And clothes?”
I looked down. “Jeans and t-shirts.”
A couple more pages turned over. “Housing?”
“Like this.” I gestured the tiny room around me.
I closed my eyes and imagined all the wonderful foods we had the past week. “A juicy burger, watermelon, vanilla ice cream.”
“Open your eyes.”
I did and saw the page that she was holding out to me. It wasn’t Africa. It was here. The United States of America. I looked up at her with dried tears on my dark face.
She stood and wrapped an arm around me. “This is where you belong, Nina.”
“But I’m a-”
“No, my dear. You are an American girl.”
I looked in the mirror again. So what if I had frizzy brown hair instead gold? So what if I my eyes were brown instead of blue? So what if I wasn’t fair-skinned? I was still an American just like them.