I was 7.
I was playing at my friend’s house back behind the trailer that we lived in. She was your typical little white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, and she was my friend. We used to play all the time together. But it hadn’t occurred to me to ask why I never went inside her house. After all, she never came into my house either. We just played in each other’s yards.
One day I was playing with her in her yard, when my mom came over. She said she had to run to the store, and that I was to just keep playing at my friend’s house, and she’d be right back. So of course we played the typical games. We had a bunch of dolls outside, and we were dressing them and acting out skits and laughing and having so much fun.
Then I realized that I needed to go to the bathroom. And I couldn’t go at my house because it was locked and my mom wasn’t home. So I asked my friend if I could use her bathroom. She said she would go inside to ask and be right back. I really had to go bad, and it wasn’t just number one.
She came back outside and closed the door. I noticed that she had a roll of toilet paper in her hand. She said to me, “My mom said that you can’t use our bathroom because we don’t allow niggers in our house. She said you can go outside.”
I was 7. Up until then, I had never encountered racism, at least not that I was aware of. I was so embarrassed and so hurt. But I didn’t cry.
At least I didn’t cry.
I didn’t have a choice. I had to go to the bathroom really bad, and I couldn’t hold it. So I took the toilet paper, and I found a bush by their house.
I remember squatting in the bushes, and as I went to the bathroom, I was still in shock about what I was made to do. I was 7, but I knew exactly what was happening, and I knew I had to tell my mom. So I finished going to the bathroom, and I pulled up my shorts, and I walked out of the bushes.
I handed her the toilet paper, and I went home. I sat on the stairs of our trailer, and I waited for my mom. When she got home, I told her what happened. She didn’t say anything, but her face told me everything. She was so furious. Mind you, this was the 1970s, not even a decade after the Civil Rights Movement. I don’t know if my mom ever said anything to them, but I never played with her again.
Who does this to a 7-year-old child? I remember this like it happened yesterday, and when I revisit it, it still breaks my heart.
That was the day that I lost my innocence.
That was the day I understood what it meant to have black skin.
That was the day that I knew my black skin was a threat to white people.
That was the day that I started to fight.