I excerpt here an anecdote relayed to me by my sister E. Some relevant background. E and her family live in rural upstate NY, with dairy cows and windmills as their nearest neighbors. Their small community is approximately 30 minutes from Syracuse, NY - where my mother lives in a part of town with an increasing number of African-American families, Latinos and Asian immigrants. The high school I attended, six blocks from my mother's house, was more than 35% African American and there were race riots of a sort when my youngest sisters were in school - in the late 1980s. It is also worth noting that my mother, who is called "Gammy" by nieces and nephews, is currently a foster parent to several immigrant refugee teens, including a handful of boys from Sudan.
Now...on with the anecdote.
E and her 4 year-old daughter (M) were in line at Macy's. Behind them was an African American woman and her child. M tugged on E's hand and asked curiously, "Mommy, are we in Gammy's World?"
"Uhm, no. We're in Macy's sweetie," said my sister, barely containing an incredulous laugh. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, there are brown-skinned people here. And I only see brown-skinned people in Gammy's world."
E gulped, stifled the laugh recognizing the seriousness of this conversation, and said, "Well M. There are brown-skinned people everywhere! Not just in Gammy's world."
"Nooooh mommy," M replied authoritatively, "there are NO brown-skinned people where WE live."
E cocked her head, thinking about how to respond to this. Because M was right. There are in fact NO brown-skinned people where they live.
How would you have responded at that point?