My uncle, who is not really related to me, says that I shouldn’t have black knees. That no man wants a woman with black knees. I am confused by this, as I sit on the stoop listening to him laugh in his throat with another uncle of mine whom I am sure is not related to me. They seem to agree. One is a drug dealer. Overdue for his next bid and real estate man and property investor and owner of his own construction company. The other is notorious for his drinking binges and odd sightings around the neighborhood with packages of baby wipes that aren’t brand name. I say, but I am a black girl and I already have black knees. They continue to chuckle at me.
But I have black knees don’t I, I am black. You are brown. Women with black knees have scars from rubbing their knees on the ground. No one will want you if they look like that. He points to the other non-uncle’s skin, dark as charcoal. I am not charcoal, but I am brown. When did I become brown? Besides there’s other kinds of scars I’m talking about that you’re too young to know about. I am nine. You shouldn’t anyways, he says, and then swigs whatever it is he’s drinking. I played football a lot with the boys on the block, that’s why my knees are darker, and they know it already. I’m not talking about boys, he says, I mean men. Men like them?
When you get older men don’t want to deal with that kind of baggage. You all scarred and scuffed up from other dudes or games or whatever, and now he has to deal with your blackness. Wear stockings from now on or something, just trust me. By this point in the conversation Daddy has descended the stairs, and upon seeing the confusion in my little face, asks what we were talking about. Non-uncle number one, the lighter one, tells him. Daddy curses him out and punches him into the street. I wonder deeply. Why can’t women be dark and wanted, why can’t men deal with her scars? Daddy comes back to tell me that my uncle is not really my uncle at all and that he’s a sexist, nasty fool that I should never take advice from. My Daddy is a correctional officer at Rikers Island prison, he was an all-star running back in high school and a college drop out, he has made many mistakes but loves my mom and he loves me.
And if not, then find a man in life who likes scars, brownness, and the edges of blackness.