Out of Tune

I grew up in the South where people socialized through the local church that my family dutifully joined. At 7 years and 5 years old respectively, my sister and I joined the all-white children’s choir and began practicing for the Christmas cantata. There were around 40 children in the choir. The choirmaster would direct us to sing and would record us and play the tape back. There were several occasions that the choirmaster was absolutely convinced that my sister and I were singing out of tune. She kept playing the tape and jabbing her finger at us saying, “I know it is the two of you that are out of tune.” I remember thinking how was she so sure that it was us? There was no way to make out individual voices on her pocket recorder. Was it possible that we were the only two children that could not sing? Or, was it because we were the only brown girls in the room. It may have been true that we could not sing. Years later, I don’t think so but, I can’t be certain. Nonetheless, it was a particular violence to be singled out when everyone knew that we didn’t belong.