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The Statue of Liberty Hat

The knot in my stomach tightens. I realize that in every experience with racism, I am never given the benefit of the doubt. “No,” I say, “I don’t think so.”

When I get back to my dorm room, I decide to put the incident away. And when I process what happened a few days later, it is in therapy. I have the session over Zoom, alone in my room. After I describe what happened, I tell my therapist that it didn’t bother me too much.

“It’s OK,” I insist.

“No, it’s not,” she says.

We sit in silence for a moment. I think about the other times I have found myself describing similar incidents to my therapist. Being called slurs as a kid blurs into my encounter with the Times Square vendor.

These days, when I look at the little foam crown, I try to imagine the Statue of Liberty as a real person. I can never decide what she looks like. Maybe an older woman. One day I pull out my phone and look up the inscription at her feet.

“Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I haven’t thought much about those words since school. But now I’m stuck mulling them over. They are engraved in stone, like they meant something important. I’m also mulling over the words of the Times Square vendor. His words also feel as if they are written in stone.

I wonder if Lady Liberty were a real person, if she were there with her daughter, watching it happen — would she step in? Or would she shrug and say, “I don’t know, I’m just relaying the message.”

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