Friday, October 26, 2012

Blinders off.

Our afternoons have become a lot more hectic now that Miss A is attending a new school.
A new school located across town.

Now when YH wakes up from his nap we hustle to get to Sweet Bub's school where we wait in the hallway for his class to file past at the end of the day. We swoop in and pull him out of line so that we can all pile into the car and battle traffic to get to Miss A's school in time for pick-up.

Despite the frenzied pace, YH loves to spend time at Sweet Bub's school.

There is often a large man there with his impossibly tiny baby, also waiting for an older sibling. The baby has sparkly eyes and her hair is usually in tiny twists punctuated by candy-colored barrettes. YH loves this baby and he loves to sit and watch her every move.

He also loves the large fish tanks that adorn the hallway and office of our school. He watches the aquatic plants sway in the movement of the water and turns to me and says "Mom! Mom, trees. Mom, trees wind."

When the pre-K kids come out of their classrooms and sit against the wall outside of the gym to wait for the bus, YH tries to sneak into line with them. He walks backwards up to the wall and carefully scoots down next to the last kid in line. He waves at the other kids and kicks his feet happily.

Any time a teacher or staff member stops to chat, YH checks their school ID. I have no idea how or why this started but he insists on inspecting the plastic id cards at close range. He scrutinizes the pictures and, when satisfied, releases the cords and watches the id zip back up towards the teacher's shoulder. One of the school's Special Ed teachers has placed a puppy sticker over his picture, just to delight and surprise YH.

YH feels comfortable at Sweet Bub's school.
Which, in part, is why I was rattled by an incident that occurred there yesterday afternoon.

As per our usual routine, I carried YH as we walked into school.
There was an SUV out front, parked in the loading only zone.
The windows were all rolled down.
There were four or five teenagers in the car, one of whom was smoking and dropping his ashes out of the window.
The music was booming.

YH heard the dance beat and started wiggling his arms in his signature move.

The kids in the car saw him and started laughing.

"Yo man, look at that chinese baby!"
"That chinese baby has glasses. Do those glasses help you see out of your chinese eyes baby?"
"Hey chinese baby: ching-chong-ching-chong"

And so on.

And as I heard their words my heart started pounding.
And my throat got hot.

And I stopped where I was, about ten feet from their car, and I bellowed.

"STOP. The words you are using, the things you are saying about MY SON are NOT acceptable. You need to stop RIGHT NOW."

And they did stop.
For a moment.

And then they said "Whatever, you effin b***."

And I continued my walk into the school and went immediately to the principal's office. Another parent had witnessed the incident and taken down the car's license plate. She followed me in to provide back-up for my account.

The administration moved quickly to identify the people involved and as I walked into the hallway, a staff member pointed out that the mother of the teens was walking towards us.

I stopped her and introduced myself.
I said, "Hi, my name is Nora and this my son. Your children, the ones in the car outside, just verbally assaulted us. They used racial slurs to insult my son."

The mom said, "Was it the black kid int he car? 'Cause he's not mine."

(No, no it wasn't.)
(and also: WOW.)

As we talked, the little girl at her side watched with widening eyes.
She piped up, "That baby??? They made fun of that baby?"
And her incredulity broke my heart again.

****                          ****

The school district police were called and I am awaiting an update from the principal.

I posted about this incident on the facebookery and got a lot of comments.
And it was interesting.

Because my friends who are white were mostly outraged on our behalf, and appalled that this had happened to a toddler.

And my friends of color were also outraged--but not surprised. Because each of them has their own history of similar taunts, similar incidents.

Birth certificates that list their race as "yellow".

This stuff is real, and it STILL happens. All over the country.
It happened in my small wealthy college town outside of Philadelphia. It happens in urban Texas. It happens in rural Vermont, beautiful Berkeley, and everywhere in between.


  1. Wow. Just wow. And good for you. I have no idea what I would have said. Good for you.

  2. People in this world, in our own community, never cease to surprise me because I SO WANT this to not ever happen and in my heart I want everyone to be good...sigh. Good for you for not tolerating one second of it.

  3. You are must nicer than I would've been. When bullied, I tend to bully back which isn't a good example I know. But's tough to resist that urge!! Kudos to you for handling it so well.

  4. People are still so uneducated about race. We are all immigrants in this country unless you are Native American. I always love people who always assume I'm a black belt in Karate.