My mother loved to tell a story about a bath I took with a little girl I had asked to spend the night with me.
We were 4 or 5 at the time. This little girl — no one quite remembers her name— and I took cues from Mom.
“Don’t forget about your ears.”
“Make sure you wash your arms and legs.”
“Clean between your toes.”
A ring of dirty, soapy water clung to the inside of the tub. While we bathed, the little girl, who was white, checked me out. She noticed that no matter how many times I wiped the washcloth across my skin the color didn’t wash off. For perhaps the first time, she had noticed how different we were. She was perplexed. So, in a way, she had to say it.
She just had to say: “I didn’t know you were that color all over.”
Her voice pitched high on those last two words, Mom told me, and the statement had all the sincerity of a child who didn’t understand the weight of her words.
Mom repeated the little girl’s words over and over again in her mind and then she laughed inside. I guess the little girl thought I was dirty, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to play with me.
Race is a social construct. All you have to do is talk to children or think about your own childhood to discover this truth.