Here is a good quote that establishes how much racism is a part of Lily’s life.
“…It washed over me for the first time in my life how much importance the world had ascribed to skin pigment, how lately it seemed that skin pigment was the sun and everything else in the universe was the orbiting planets. Ever since school let out this summer, it had been nothing but skin pigment every livelong day. I was sick of it” (pg 154-55)
Lily has racism ingrained in her from her family and what society has taught her.
“T. Ray did not think colored women were smart. Since I want to tell the whole truth, which means the worst parts, I thought they could be smart, but not as smart as me, me being white. Lying on the cot in the honey house, though, all I could think was August is so intelligent, so cultured, and I was surprised by this. That’s what let me know I had some prejudice buried inside me” (pg 78).
Even though Lily is trying not to be, she has some racism inside her.
When Lily first meets Zach, she is shocked that he is attractive, because in her mind, black people were not supposed to be attractive. She says,
“If he was shocked over me being white, I was shocked over him being handsome. At my school they made fun of colored people’s lips and noses. I myself had laughed at these jokes, hoping to fit in. Now I wished I could pen a letter to my school to be read at opening assembly that would tell them how wrong we’d all been” (pg 116).
Eventually, Lily has experienced so much racism that she begins to ponder if the world would be better without defining races.
“They (the Daughters of Mary) didn’t even think of me being different. Up until then I’d thought that white people and colored people getting along was the big aim, but after that I decided everybody being colorless together was a better plan. I thought of that policeman, Eddie Hazelwurst, saying I lowered myself to be in this house of colored women, and for the very life of me I couldn’t understand how it got to be this way, how colored women had become the lowest ones on the totem pole. You only had to look at them to see how special they were, like hidden royalty among us” (pg 209).
Zach says it all when he says “We can’t think of changing our skin… Change the world – that’s how we gotta think” (pg 216)