I stood in the wings, more resigned than nervous, waiting to hear my name called. When my turn came, I lifted the hem of my dress and climbed the steps up to the platform. There I stood, framed by a plethora of white flowers and ribbons, the spotlights blinding me, as the announcer read off my lineage and described my accomplishments. I smiled hard and curtsied deep. I couldn’t see the audience, but I heard the applause validating my worth.
Unaccustomed to high-heeled shoes, I gingerly stepped down a red-carpeted stairway. My proud, tuxedoed father met me at the bottom and paraded me around the ballroom. Then my proud-of-himself, tuxedoed young escort paraded me around the ballroom. When the last of the debs had gone through this ritual, we formed three circles on the dance floor to perform a rigidly choreographed minuet. We were petals on a flower. Black girls in white.
We flaunted our American middle-classness, I now realize, and gave no thought to the time, a hundred years earlier, when our ancestors stood on platforms to be appraised and parceled out.
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