I walked down the hall of the Chicago hospital in my white coat. A small black child near her mother stepped in front of me and looking up, began to dance. It was an invitation that was utterly charming. I intended to dance with the little kid, but her mom grabbed her, spun her around, and slapped her across the face, I mean, slapped her hard: Whack! I stood in shock. The child screamed. Mother seized her shoulder, pulled her away from me, and turned their backs to face the elevator.
I slipped through the door to my office, closed it, and stood there trembling. It took me a moment to understand what had happened. I thought to myself, "She didn't have to do that, this isn't the South".
Then I thought, "Who are you to tell her how to raise her child? What do you know about what a sassy child might face from white people, especially those in a position of authority?" I felt utterly helpless. But so did she, and that was the point. I was an intern, and this was part of my education.