Mimi, you could have owned me.

Mary Crabtree,
Wooster, OH

This is what my 6 year old bi-racial granddaughter said to me this summer. We had read a picture book about one of my personal heroes, Harriet Tubman, and I was explaining slavery to her. She rubbed her arm, which is a lovely tone of brown, and then my slightly tanned white arm, and recognized that I am white, and she is brown. She looked at me and said, “Mimi, you could have owned me.” I was speechless! I am from “Bleeding Kansas” a proud free state, and currently live in Ohio, one of the bastions of the Underground Railroad. I’m a lifelong free-stater, have always believed in equality of all people, and this just took my breath away. She’s very bright, so I had to face this, and discuss it with her. I had to talk about the issues “back then,” and the issues “now” that people of color face. She said, “Oh, I know you would not be mean, Mimi, but some people are, I hear them at school, but it doesn’t bother me….I’m a beautiful brown girl, right?” Of course she’s beautiful, and she’s brown…but I began to wonder….isn’t she JUST beautiful? Can she be a beautiful girl…because that’s how I always thought of her…as my beautiful granddaughter…her color or race, has never mattered…and frankly, still doesn’t!


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