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  • “You’re ugly.” A small girl, perhaps three years old, tells me as I walk past a rusty swing set.

    “Why?” I ask, genuinely curious.

    “Your skin is brown.” She responds.

    It’s true. Though my mom is of Netherlandic heritage, I could never be mistaken for anything other than Lakota on the basis of looks. My father’s leather skin tone out raced my mother’s in the genetic cauldron. I had never thought of my skin as a thing of shame. We were at a church bible camp. I wondered if that brown skin was why the church considered me a “bad kid”? A lot in the world made sense for the first time.

    I had to try hard not to laugh. I always got in trouble when I laughed. Authorities, preachers, school principles, those intoxicated by their own insignificant power, hear a challenge in laughter. But it seemed so stupid. It still does. The misplaced importance some place on the pigment of skin.

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