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  • Seema


Words from an interviewee:

I can't.

As much as I think I can fashion an answer for anything, that [imagine a U.S. without racism] stopped me in my tracks.

A humiliating memory -- one of the first things that happened that I remember from my childhood. There was a local baseball team. Four of my brothers played on it. My favorite player was the third baseman. He was very dark skinned. He used to dive and get dust in his face. He was one of my early early heroes. He came to the house one Sunday morning -- this was 1956 -- I was four and a half years old. He said, "I will give you a dollar if you shine my shoes," because he saw a little shoe shine kit nearby. At that time, a dollar was serious money. I grabbed that kit and did some things I'd seen my brothers do -- you know put a little water on, doing my thing, putting polish on it. All of that, and he was kind of guiding me along the way. I give him a spit shine. My grandfather was there who was, like me, a light skinned Black person. When [name omitted] left, my grandfather said, "I will put my foot in your ass if I ever see you shining a Black n___r's shoe ever again." Now you're talking about jacking my whole head up. I mean this guy is my hero. He's my hero. My brothers played with him. He and my dad were good friends. And so this was what my grandfather said. I was so perplexed and discombobulated. I knew that we were Black. We went to segregated schools. A lot of times people would mistake us for being white. But his self-hatred of the Blackness of having Black in his blood and therefore characterized as being "not white" was probably the most powerful dynamic in his existence and, you know, I jump to that as such a powerful starting point to illuminate and illustrate what was 65 years ago the effect of white supremacy and racism.

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