"I was born a poor black child…"

Steve Martin's iconic declaration doesn't exactly tell my story, but it comes painfully close. I was born poor and white in a Kansas City suburb that had more in common with trailer parks than gated subdivisions. To use the politically incorrect—and still painful—vernacular, I grew up white trash.

But of course, my upbringing couldn't be that simple. As part of Kansas City's historic, court-ordered desegregation effort, I found myself bused to inner-city schools at the tender age of nine. For two-thirds of my primary and secondary education, I was the minority.

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