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Colors


I watched my daughter's sightless eyes close as I pulled her blanket around her tiny body. Even as she drifted into sleep, her smile tried desperately to rid my face of its scowl. The white men had done this to my Amika. They brought the disease that left her weak and blind. They brought the weapons that killed my father. They brought the culture that destroyed mine. They forced me away from everything I knew, they starved my family, they took away my reason to live, they broke my spirit. They left me in this cursed land in a tiny shack with nothing but my blind daughter. I, Malik, can never forgive them. I, Malik, will pay them back.
I pulled the new bracelet off her thin little hand. "It feels just like my Cherokee beads, Papa," her innocent voice had said. The African beads from our slave girl Naira did indeed look similar to the Cherokee beads in Amika's hair. I had tried to take them from her earlier, but the confused and hurt look in her blind eyes stopped me. I removed it now, while she slept.
"Papa," my brain replayed the conversation against my will, "Naira says she was born on a boat coming from Africa. It's just like I was born coming here! We have the same story." This cannot continue, I told myself. The white men took Amika’s siblings and friends, left her with only a slave girl to talk to.
"No," I had barked. "It isn't the same." The light in her small brown face faded, leaving only confusion behind.
"Why?" She asked.
"Because she is black." I explained. “She is not like you.”
I stopped my thoughts, refusing to remember what she had said next, and focused on applying my black war paint. Tonight, I would act as the red chief and lead my warriors against the white village.

***  

Everything went as planned. My body moved through the motions, my brain was entirely focused on nothing. Keeping the doubting thoughts from flooding my mind. Why am I so weak? I screamed. What would my father, a warrior, have thought of me?
I gave the signal. My silent warriors attacked the village. I am finally getting what I want. I told myself. This is what I want. White men destroyed my family, I will repay them. I moved to the center of the village.
I reached a white man - no, a boy. About the age my son would have been. I raised my tomahawk to kill, to take this life like they had taken my son’s. I saw a black girl, moving quickly to defend the boy. Naira. Why would she do this? A part of me asked. But another part again shut down my thoughts. I am a warrior. I will kill the white man’s son. What makes Naira think I won’t kill her too? I raised my hand once more to strike.
Another child stepped in front of Naira. A tiny brown girl, with beads in her hair. She saw me so well through her unseeing eyes.
I looked at her, the little brown girl, standing in front of a little black girl, who stood in front of the little white boy. All staring at me, lifting a weapon to kill them. What made them so different from me? My heart wrenched with pain. What is the matter with me? I screamed at myself, not knowing which side of myself I wished to destroy. Not knowing what I believed in. My brain couldn't hold it back any longer, the memory flooded my mind. "Different colors, Papa," she had replied. "Different colors, just like my beads. How long will these colors separate us?"
My body collapsed, I fell to my knees. Amika stretched out her hand, she touched my face. She felt the war paint. She saw what I had become. Yet, she seemed to see more than I had.
“Different colors, Papa,” she said, tracing the outline the colored designs on my face. “Different colors, but the same heart.” She saw in me a love I didn’t know I’d had. I finally saw the world through the eyes of a blind girl.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out the string of beads in my hand. I broke the string, took three beads of different colors, and gave them to the boy. Then three to Naira. Then three to my little Amika. And three I tucked back in my pocket.

“Different colors,” I echoed, changing to English for the sake of the boy, “but the same hearts.”


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