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I could have grown up with Trayvon Martin

The department store doors have barely closed behind us when my brother slides his hands into his trouser pockets. I approximate his move, drawing my arms close to the sides of my seersucker dress and pressing a palm securely against each thigh.

Eric and I are practiced at this. We act before Mama issues her rote orders: “Don’t touch nothing … Y’all know how these white folks is. They are watching us. And I don’t feel like fighting no white folks today.”

It is 1968. I’m a second-grader. Pfeifer-Blass, that Arkansas department store, is only a few years into letting black shoppers use the front entrance.

So, the resentments of some white sales clerks are expressed in cold, harassing stares and disingenuous “May I help you?” queries whose real purpose is to put us on high alert.

“They think all Negroes want to steal something,” Mama, the hell-raiser, had explained the first time we’d trailed her into that store.

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