Why Are You Dirty?

There have been certain events in my life that have made me realize that people really do think in black, white, Asian and Latino. One of those moments took place when I lived in Chicago - a diverse but rather segregated city.
I'm a public transportation girl. So, one day I'm riding the L. It's crowded, but I'm sitting, with people on both sides of me. 
Out of the blue, the man next to me - middle-aged white guy in a business suit - says, "I'm sorry to be rude, but I have to ask - you're well dressed and are carrying a briefcase, so...why are your hands so dirty?"
I quickly looked down, wondering if I had been letting myself go. Nope, just the usual dark olive skin and moderately short but clean fingernails. To figure out what this complete stranger was talking about, I had to put myself in his shoes - see myself from the outside. Not to sound preachy, but this is something most white people have the luxury of never having to do.
Anyway, a second look made me realize that this gentleman had mistaken the pigment in my knuckles for dirt. My faith in humanity was restored by his embarrassment but, to this day, I'm still a little shocked that someone to have the nerve to ask a stranger why they are dirty.

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