MONTAGE

Color Outside the Lines
Tasha Morwell

I was three years old and I didn't know much
But I knew that I was white
And they weren't.
I knew that I'd never seen people like them
And it hurt
When some of them sneered at my dad
And called him "White Boy"
Because I didn't understand
It was just the laws of the land
And every woman and every man there
Had grown up feeling judged
Like the clothes on their backs
Weren't worth the miles they trudged
Fighting Jim Crow
And his crowd of cronies.
And they resented us
Because our faces were as white
As the sheets they dreaded to see
Worn as pointed masks marching down the street
Screaming "YOU'RE STILL NOT FREE."

And I was four years old
And I didn't know much
But I knew that my daddy was a preacher
And he started saying something that annoyed my pre-K teacher
He said, "You gotta color outside the lines.
Because everyone here has been thrown to the lions
Everyone here has had hard times
So we can't divide
Into black and white
We are A people.
Singular.
We are A church.
One.
And we're not giving up this fight."

'Cause I was only five years old
But I knew that "we" meant "us" not "me"
"We" didn't just mean "my family"
It meant "everyone"
Regardless of race or creed.
I remember the woman in the corner pew
I remember especially how she would become so moved
By the sermons
That she would faint.
Can you imagine?
Every week
Being brought to your knees
Because something moved her in that pew
And the holy dove was moving, too
And every breath she drew
Was hallelujah.
And I thought...
I've never seen that at a white church.

And by the time I was six years old
I was proud of my principal
For throwing up on a white cop's shoes
After he pulled her over and accused her
Of being black and wealthy
Because that must mean she's a prostitute.
I was proud the day my church
Intimidated the Ku Klux Klan
Instead of the other way around
I was proud the day my church
Reached around the world
And touched the former Soviet Union
I was proud the day I realized
My church was no longer making history
By simply being black
Just like my father never made history
By simply being white
No
WE were making history
By simply
Being
Incredible.

When I was seven years old
We had to move again
But not before my mother
Received a plaque that said
"Honorary African American Woman."
And I got to feel proud
All over again.