scene 1, 1992 playground in pennsylvania neighborhood
"no, I'm black."
"not really black, though. more brown, right?"
"but I'm called black."

Suzanne was my best friend, we had similar names, she could read, had a fun brother and sister, and (as I later learned) was ambidextrous. At 5 1/2 years old, Suzanne was 6 months older than me. In every way I wanted to catch up to her, and my still-ripening logic led me to hope that I might turn brown, or "black", within the next 6 months.

scene 2, 1993 superbowl half-time show

The king of pop was catapulted onto the stage and stood there with clenched fists. His name was Michael, he had pretty hair, a done-up face, and dressed in vague military-wear. Man or Woman? My dad explained to me that Michael's dad was an angry and mean man, so Michael didn't want to be like his dad.

scene 3, a revelation sometime later

I saw a retrospective of the Jackson 5 performing on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was explained to me that the boy soloing and dancing was the same Michael Jackson that had mesmerized me during the superbowl halftime. By now my six month cutoff point had passed, Suzanne and I were both older; she still black and I still white. But now I knew I had more time.


I'm thankful to Michael Jackson for his moves and his music, and also for confirming to me that true race is not a thing to be won but a spectrum of possibility.