Today riding the subway I saw a woman putting lotion on a little girl sitting next to her. The little girl looked like the woman so I assume they were mother and daughter. The girl was about 5, very petite, dark skinned, and waring a red and black dress. The mother looked about 35 and started off lotioning the little girls legs which dangled off the side of the subway seat (they did not reach the floor). The mother then did her daughters arms and lastly her face ending with a dab of lotion on the little girls lips. I might have thought the whole thing innocent enough, perhaps even sweet, if not for the forceful strokes with which this mother applied the lotion to her daughter. The way she muttered at a scar on the child’s knee. And…the fact that she called this beautiful little girl “ugly”. She ended by palming the little girls hair and mumbling something about it being “too nappy”. This poem is my response…

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Ugly
by Kristin Richardson Jordan

Ugly comes in bulk so all buyers beware
you can buy it on the corner
you can spray it in your hair
you can dress it up real fancy
but in the end it will be shit
for this “beauty” is real ugly
and for truth
we’ll have to flip it

For ugly is not your daughter’s lips
or “ashy” face
not nappy hairs, lived in skin and scrapes from play
ugly is everything from this society that has to be erased
ugly are these boxes and these hurtful things we say

Far from 5 year old black girls with slightly light knees
ugly is the epitome of beauty wrapped up in white supremacy’s needs
for ugly is that air brushed beauty queen
that flawless skin that hot comb
ugly is our comfort with simulated simularity
over letting difference roam
ugly is our love of certain looks
and our love of looks over care
and ugly is looking at your child
and seeing only ugliness there

(c) Kristin Richardson Jordan, june 12th 2015