I am seven years old and clutching a book my mom has just bought me from the bookstore. We sit down at a bench, which gives me enough time to scour through the table of contents. The book is filled with fairy-tales and fables from different countries and religions. I notice one of the stories has Jewish origins and I nudge my mom, asking her if it was okay for me to read it. She is taken by surprise and asks me why I think I shouldn’t read it. I tell her that the teacher of my Christian Sunday School class told us that Jews are different and different is bad. She tells me that Jews are just like anyone else and different doesn’t mean bad. She makes it a point to buy me more books about different religions and cultures. I go to back to my teacher the next Sunday, excited to tell her about what I’ve learned about Jews and Judaism. Instead of being as excited as I was, she tells me I should stop reading those kinds of books. I ignore her and happily devour the stack of new books Mom bought me.
I am nine years old and following my mom around a department store as she shops. As usual, I have my nose stuck in a book and am not paying much attention to the world around me. I keep running into my mom, as she keeps stopping every few steps. I finally look up and follow her gaze to a salesperson who is hastily trying to look like she is folding some shirts. My mother drops everything in her hand and glares at the salesperson before we exit the store. As my mother will tell me later at home, the salesperson was following us throughout the store, which happens to be in a predominantly white neighborhood and, as such, we were one of a handful of nonwhite customers in the store. I don’t quite understand why we left in such a hurry and I can see the flash of pain that goes across my mom’s face before she quietly tells me that sometimes the color of our skin causes other people to think we might be stealing. I ask why the color of my skin matters and she just shakes her head.