Kimberlé Crenshaw, The Game of Thorn Rosa | MAKERS Moment

Kimberlé Crenshaw, The Game of Thorn Rosa | MAKERS Moment

Video Transcript

KIMBERLÉ CRENSHAW: When I was in kindergarten, and there was this game that we use to play call Thorn Rosa. And the game involved all the little kids singing this song. The main thing about Thorn Rosa, it was Thorn Rosa was pretty. Thorn Rosa was a pretty child, pretty child, pretty child. So every time we began to play this little game, I would always want to be Thorn Rosa. My hand would go up immediately. Like, can I be Thorn Rosa?

And I got to be the wicked witch. I got to be the horse. I got to be the pig, the cow, pretty much everything but Thorn Rosa. And so what I thought was, if I do a really good job at all of these other roles, if I neigh really loud and if I crawled around, if I was a really evil wicked witch, that eventually the teacher would say, well, she's really a good sport. She's really a good actor. She'll get a chance to be Thorn Rosa.

So this goes on until, like, the last week of school, and I started to realize that the days are numbered. So every day, I'm, like, tugging at my teacher's dress. Like, please, Mrs. B, when can I be Thorn Rosa. And she would say, later, later. We get to the last day, and I'm, like, really panicked. Like, what's going to happen? If I don't get a chance to be Thorn Rosa, my life is over.

And we finally get to, like, 2:45. The day's almost over. And the teacher finally says, OK, OK, we're going to do Thorn Rosa. Everybody gather around. So all the kids gathered around. We all grab hands. They start singing, and in comes the queen-- the king and the queen and the prince. And then there's this moment where it's my entrance, Thorn Rosa's a pretty child. And as I stepped into the circle, the bell rang.

And I thought I was going to lose my mind because it was like, I wait all year for the chance to be the princess, and the moment I'm making my entrance, the bell rings. So tears started to come out, and my teacher feels really badly about it. So she says, OK, we're going to do it on the front yard. We go out. They start the song again. Just before I come in, all of the parents come, and they start calling their kids. It's summertime.

And so I started just sobbing. And all I could say was, Thorn Rosa, Thorn Rosa. And my brother was there. He ran over. He was like, who is Thorn Rosa? Who are her people? Where do they live? What did they do to you? And I just couldn't-- I had no words. There was something that had cracked, you know, some hope that I had that I kind of realized, maybe that's not you. But I couldn't believe that it couldn't be me.

I kind of knew-- you know, I was a kindergartener, but I wasn't a stupid kid. I knew that there was no Thorn Rosa for me. And that was sort of a moment where the fantasy of what I could be and how I would be seen by the world as a little Black girl just wasn't in the cards for me. And it was because of all the little hints that I got. My hair was too nappy, and my skin was too dark. And I didn't have green eyes. I was a Black girl. I was not Cinderella.

And that moment of recognition stuck with me, both in white spaces, but also it was a constant awareness of the way that racism would play out in my life was probably different from the way racism would play out in my brother's life and in our community and in the way we think and talk about anti-racism. And just time after time when something else happened, it built on that platform, that understanding that happened when I was six.