“Mama?” my seven-year-old, Li’l D, spoke.
“My friend [M] said that the difference between my hair and [my little brother, Littler J’s] is that his is way bigger because it hasn’t been cut for a while.”
“That’s one difference,” I said. “Another is that his hair is fine, while your hair is …” I searched for the right word, understanding many words that seem neutral in the dictionary are charged in living color.
“Your hair is thick,” I concluded.
“Which is better?” Li’l D asked plaintively.
“Oh, sweetie,” I said, ruffling his thicker curls. “Neither is better. When I was little, my only friend who wasn’t my sibling–Topaz–had curly hair. I was so jealous of her curly hair. Then again, she wished she had my straight hair.”
Li’l D looked at his brother’s hair and half-smiled. “Oh.”
I don’t know if he believes me now. I don’t know if he’ll believe me later. I only know that (1) pre-pregnancy me of eight years ago wouldn’t have understood “dog whistles,” or the ways politicians invoke race without ever explicitly mentioning it, and (2) I believe it through-and-through. His curls are lovely. His brother’s curls are lovely.
One brother’s curls are fine. Another brother’s curls are coarse.
Both brothers are beautiful; either’s hair, only a fraction of that.