Nonce by Skyler Kuczaboski

He has the longest hair out of all the boys in his classroom, and the darkest skin too

He sticks out like an eagle in a flock of doves

He’s only in kindergarten but he knows

He knows he is different and his classmates know it too

See he’s darker than the rest of his classmates and they’ve been taught if someone looks different from you, then they are from somewhere else,

Somewhere exotic where brown people live, across oceans with beautiful beaches and starving children He’s from somewhere that is used to guilt American children into finishing their meal

He’s from somewhere warm and sunny, he’s from… Seattle.

And he thinks it’s a different country too Which is cute, I’ll admit but when he learns that he and his ancestors are from the continent that they stand tall on and claim, it’ll be hard for him to grasp why he’s treated so differently then…

He knows he’s different, and his classmates know it too

He knows he is not a girl, and his classmates know it too

But they refer to him as a she anyways, they treat him less than because he just looks so feminine

Every time they call him a “she”, he winces, knowing he is a boy and the only way that his gender is confused from his peers is because of the braid he wears every day. They don’t know that’s his spirit, his connection with the earth. They just know their moms have longer hair than their dads, and we live in a patriarchal society, so looking like a girl is totally teasing material

But back home, the length of your hair has nothing to do with your gender identity. See back home, his tribe is stemmed in matriarchy and respect for his mother, his sister, his aunties, his grandmother, his cousins, his friends, his teachers, his doctor, their everything, they’re everything. Why in a white classroom it is a bad thing to be compared to your communities backbone?

And yeah, the girls think it’s cute or whatever. They think it’s ok to run their fingers through it like when his grandmother weaves, not knowing their colonizing fingers taints his identity

But the boys, the boys however are taught that anything remotely feminine is absolutely wrong.

Pink wrong dolls wrong

My little pony wrong

Long hair wrong

He is wrong

The only acceptable masculine things are cars burning fuel and rubber

Guns exploding and ripping through animal flesh



So he camouflages himself into the classroom, he hides his braid under his shirt and trades in his connection to his ancestors, to his spirit to mother earth for a military cut so the jokes can finally stop flying in, and even then, it’ll be hard for him to grasp why he’s treated so differently then

He knows he’s different, and his classmates know it too

Still, he reads and plays and works with other children just fine

They all color together, they all fill in their calendar together, they all… pledge their allegiance to the flag of the United States of America together

They all put their tiny hand over their hearts and recite what they are told, recite to a flag that represents a country built on his ancestors’ bones, a country that his here because the people who were here first are not.

They all pledge to a flag that flew over mutilated bodies of indigenous women and children, the same flag the president gave their tribe, the same flag the chiefs presented to protect their people, the same flag that was supposed to protect their people, the same flag beaded on the bonnet, on the baby’s bonnet, the baby latched on to her dead mothers breast, the baby they found after the blizzard when counting the bodies I mean the trophies the soldier’s won themselves through a heroic battle between them and unarmed women and children, not that he will ever know of this. He’ll only know what is easiest for his teacher to tell him.

And when Columbus Day and Thanksgiving roll around he’ll learn to cling to those stereotypes because he’s excited to be there in the first place. He’ll buy dreamcatchers that were made in China and calendars that quote Sitting Bull, Black Elk, Crazy Horse, but put together by a white man to fill white pockets for a white company that started from romanticizing the vanishing red man

The vanishing Indian, put on a shelf, thrown in a picture book thrown wherever it’s convenient for his teacher, the only place he sees himself. The only way he’ll ever know himself and he’ll never truly know himself.