what everybody knows now

Even though the laws have changed
my grandmother still takes us
to the back of the bus when we go downtown
in the rain. It's easier, my grandmother says,
than having white folks look at me like I'm dirt.

But we aren't dirt. We are people
paying the same fare as other people.
When I say this to my grandmother, 
she nods, says, Easier to stay where you belong.

I look around and see the ones
who walk straight to the back. See
the ones who take a seat up front, daring
anyone to make them move. And know
this is who I want to be. Not scared
like that. Brave
like that.

Still, my grandmother takes my hand downtown
pulls me right past the restaurants that have to let us sit
wherever we want now. No need in making trouble,
she says. You all go back to New York City but
I have to live here.

We walk straight past Woolworth's
without even looking in the windows
because the one time my grandmother went inside
they made her wait and wait. Acted like
I wasn't even there. It's hard not to see the moment
my grandmother in her Sunday clothes, a hat
with a flower pinned to it
neatly on her head, her patent-leather purse,
perfectly clasped
between her gloved hands—waiting quietly
long past her turn.

Jacqueline Woodson, "what everybody knows now" from Brown Girl Dreaming. Copyright © 2014 by Jacqueline Woodson. Used by permission of Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
Source: Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014)
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