The NYC subway ridership is a melting pot. If you want diversity, ride the train.
Rush hour starts when school lets out. I'm on the subway, going to a meeting. My kids aren't with me. They are old enough to travel home by themselves.
The subway is doing a brisk business but is not too crowded yet. I have a seat.
A mom enters the train with a little girl. She's about three years old. She has blond hair, very light skin and blue eyes. Her hair erupts in a million perfect curls, so platinum that they are almost white.
The atmosphere in the subway car shifts.
All of the adults on the train notice. Moms with kids of their own smile. Some people exchange delighted glances. Grandmothers get all crinkly eyed and grin, missing teeth and all. Some really maternal types catch her eye and wave or blow kisses. Fathers and grandfathers aren't immune either.
The little blond girl is a big hit.
Many - most - of the people smiling, buzzing and happy to see the blond girl have kids with them. The kids are of are all different ages. Some are babies. Some are toddler aged, like the blond child. Some are older.
All of the other kids are brown.
Their skin color ranges from creamy caramel to coffee, from mahogany to hot chocolate.
Their hair is dark and ironed straight, poofy, frizzy, curly, cropped short or kept long. One little girl has fancy cornrows with colored beads attached. There's an Afro.
Nobody seems to notice the brown children. Not with this girl on the train. She has surpassed all of the other children.
The brown children do not elicit a bad response. They are invisible. No one's face gets all scrunchy when they walk onto the train. No one is whispering about their curls.
As a human, I do not like being taken for granted. If you treat me like chopped liver, I bristle. I turn this over in my mind.
The blond girl and her mother exit the train. Everything quickly goes back to normal.
I hope that the brown kids didn't notice. My gut says some of them did, even if words weren't involved. It might be experienced differently than that.
My mother-in-law was born in 1932. She told me she hated Shirley Temple.
I've seen pictures of my mother-in-law as a child. She was adorable. She grew into a radiantly pretty young woman. When I knew her, her smile could light up a room.
She was Jewish. Shirley Temple made her feel ugly. That's what she said.
I think about the light-skinned blond girl and all of the other kids for the rest of the ride home. When I get off the train, my mind goes to other things. But while I'm still sitting there I feel like an idiot.
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