Whiteness monday

“Zara, honey, I’m so glad you feel that way,” I told her. “But do you realize that you’re not white?”

Stunned silence.

And then: rage. “I am white!” she shouted. “You’re white!”

“Yes,” I told her. “I’m white, so you are part white. But Daddy is from Pakistan. He’s brown. And that means that, in those times, you would have been considered brown, not white.”

“I am white!” Zara wailed. “I’m everything!” And she burst into tears. [link]

In the second or third grade, a girl in my class took me aside one day while we both washed our hands to give one of my arms a thorough inspection. I was confused, but submitted anyways. That was my way, back then, when things happened to me that I didn’t quite grasp. I’d smile benignly, I’d wait it out, I’d make light of it after. So, when she returned my arm to me with a grin, and said more to herself than me – in a tone of triumph I still remember vividly – “So it doesn’t wash off,” I didn’t think twice. Things hadn’t quite clicked yet. Hearing the story later, though, my mother, in her kind and knowing way, sighed, took my hands in hers, and asked me: “Was this girl white?” [link]

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