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Shantum. Nina. Katherine.

I was in India, travelling all over the country. We were digging wells, riding elephants, studying Buddhism. Inside the rickety old bus, with ripped leather seats, no air conditioning, and red and yellow cloth curtains, I sat with our Indian guide, Shantum.

I offered Shantum a piece of spearmint gum. He said thank you immediately, took it, carefully opening the silver wrapper like Charlie Bucket opening a Wonka bar. Then, he put the gum in his mouth and chewed slowly, savoring the flavor within.

We started speaking about many things — arranged marriage, the caste system, why Buddha is always incarnated as a man — when I noticed a slight grimace on his face.

“Can I call you ‘sis’?” I asked.

My friend laughed, smiled. “Oh, hell no.”

A white woman calling a black woman “sis” is out of bounds.

I admit, I was hurt. Surely, she knows how much I love her? She knows how angry and disappointed I have been with white women playing it safe and staying silent because they can.

But she was telling me that, no matter how “woke” or evolved I may think I am, I walk this world as a white woman, which means I’ll never truly understand what it is to walk this world as a black woman. …

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Dear Ms. Nicole Hockley,

I have read your open letter to me dated November 15, 2017 regarding gun violence. I wanted to respond sooner, and I tried to do so on December 14th, the 5 year anniversary of the death of your son, Dylan, at Sandy Hook Elementary, but found myself at a loss for words. So perhaps it is fitting that I write to you now, while you and your family are here in Washington, DC for “March for Our Lives,” in support of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Please let me first offer my deepest sympathies for your loss. President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said: “There is no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.” I agree with that sentiment. Life’s natural order is for children to bury their parents. Only in times of war should a mother ever bury her child first. Dylan was in first grade. He was not a soldier. But he was a casualty in a war on our own soil. …


Katherine Fugate

Writer. Director. Activist. Mom. Creator/EP of "Army Wives." Sports Illustrated's Best Journalism 2017. Guest "The Stephanie Miller Show" Sirius XM: Progress.

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