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"Are you that color all over?"

by enginethatcould on August 31, 2014   |  FacebooktwitterTumblr

My recent sixes about trees/forest and about my non-tan self reminded me of this story.

I was about twenty the first time I ran out of money for my college education, and I returned to my hometown in the western suburbs of Chicago to work for a while.

One of the jobs I had was at a nearby Kentucky Fried Chicken. They were implementing a program that bussed their employees from inner-city KFC locations to staff the ones in the suburbs. I met and became friends with a woman who was about ten years older than I was. She and her four children lived with her mother and aunt in an apartment in the Robert Taylor Homes (housing projects near Chicago's Chinatown, which have since been torn down). It is important to my story to comment that she's black, I'm white.

It never once occurred to me not to go visit my friend at her home, when she invited me. (that's the trees/forest thing, I think, although not in a negative way)

Her kids were between the ages of 7 and 15 and just a delight. After we had all been chatting for awhile, the two younger kids started scooching closer and closer to me. Her youngest daughter, sitting snugly against me on the couch, started slowly, casually, rolling up my sleeve. Her son, on the floor, was playing with the hem of my slacks.

Their mother noticed and told them to stop... at which point they both replied that they were only trying to find out if I was the same color all over.

None of her children had ever seen someone who was white anywhere except television. They explained to me that they thought the actors were actually black, but somehow had white hands and faces for the TV shows.

My friend and I eventually lost touch, unfortunately. I would have loved to have known what paths she and her children forged in this world.


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