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When I look in the mirror, I see my nana, her wide Polish cheeks. I see my other nana's sharply tilted Irish nose. My skin is so light as to be almost transparent.

I am an Irish Catholic feminist, raised working-class, in all those contradictions. When I was nineteen, I learned about white privilege in a training to be a rape crisis counselor, and I realized how much of my life was shaped by my whiteness. I grew up in a West Coast city so segregated you could literally go years without seeing a person of color, and to me, white was what everyone was.

I lived in Ireland after college, and I was the American. Everyone in the States thought I looked "so Irish", but in Ireland I didn't need to say a word and I was seen as an outsider. I am too tall, too big, too there, and my appearance is shaped as much by the cultural norms of my home country as by the recombinant DNA I carry by chance.

My son does not call himself white. He says his skin is "light orange", and when another kid calls him "white boy" he says no, that his skin is orange, and people aren't really white. He says this without any knowledge of racial classifications: to him, nobody is really white because nobody is the color of paper. I recognize white privilege as it appears in and eases my life, and I know that racism is reality. But part of me hopes that my children will actually live in a society where looking at themselves and each other involves recognizing and accepting their differences, and not slotting into categories that seem to fit no one.
 
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