May 31, 2012

Speechless

Today was Track and Field Day for all the 3rd, 4th, and 5th students in our small town in Northwestern Michigan.  It's generally a good time with healthy and respectful competition.  I sat in the stands with some of the other parents, the teachers, and was surrounded by 4th and 5th graders.  Talk does, as talk will at this age, to girlfriends.

But I'm getting ahead of myself... let's go back about 8 years.

Quinn met Amara in preschool when he was three years old.  I don't want to say it was love at first sight, but it didn't take long for them to become the best of friends.  From about halfway through 3-year-old preschool on, it was "Quinn and Amara".  Where one was, you'd probably find the other.

Somewhere over the years, Quinn began thinking of Amara as his girlfriend. Oh, not in the romantic sense - he was too young to even know what all that meant.  But -- she was a girl, and she was his friend, thus -- girlfriend.  So, in the way that grown ups ask five year olds in a teasing manner, "Do you have a girlfriend?" he'd say yes.  Amara was his girlfriend.  That was that.

What Amara was was Quinn's champion and staunchest supporter.  When the gym teacher bullied Quinn, it was through Amara that we came to know about.  She came home crying about how badly the teacher was treating him.  When there was a substitute teacher who yelled at Quinn for standing on a chair, it was Amara who pointed out that Quinn was allowed to do so, since Shorty Quinn couldn't reach his stuff on the shelf without it.

With Amara around -- no one was going to pick on her Quinnie.

My best friend is Amara's mom, Tammi, so we spent a lot of time together as families.  Amara's older brothers, Auston and Andr√© were wonderful role models for Quinn and Amara was lots of fun for Claire too.  Nonie (short for Antonino) was great friends with Quinn and Claire's dad.  We spent time together almost every weekend.  We used to joke that we were going to have the Sargent/Alvarez commune and just all live together.

Quinn and Amara in their 2nd grade play 
Mr. Nonie

From L-R: Andre', Amara, Auston

Tammi and Amara

The Three Amigos


The hardest thing about moving away from Minnesota was moving away from this family.  When Quinn and Claire go back to visit their Dad, we always need to make arrangements for them to have Amara-time otherwise the trip is pretty much a bust.

I could go on and on but this video that I made for Amara on her 8th birthday probably explains it best:


Anyway... flash forward a few years to today's field trip.  Quinn was asked if he had a girlfriend. He said yes. They asked if he had a picture. He said yes.  I pulled up a picture of Amara on my phone and showed them. Their reaction shocked me beyond belief.  "Ewwwwwww yuck! She's Mexican!!"  I was stunned.

Me:  "Ummm, no. She's half white, half Filipino."  Them:  "Ohhhhhh gross. That's Mexican!!"  Me:  "Ummm, no. Technically it's considered Asian."  Them:  "Ewwwww, ick, like [an Asian girl in the sixth grade class]."  "I feel sorry for you, Quinn, that that's your girlfriend."

Okay -- really?  This is the private, parochial school in our community.  These are supposed to be the nice kids from the good families.  My mother was actually very good friends with one of these children's grandmother -- I was named after his Aunt.  These are smart kids -- who in the HELL is teaching these children this kind of racial prejudice?

Only one answer here -- it's gotta be their parents.

In the +8 years that Quinn has known Amara and her family, he has never made a single comment about Amara not being white.  I don't think he's ever noticed.  I know he's never cared.  She is simply Amara -- someone he loves.

Tammi is white and Nonie is half Filipino and half Spanish.  It should also be said that they are both gorgeous.  I will never forget the first time I laid eyes on Nonie.  He flew into preschool class late (of course) to pick up Amara.  He was wearing bib overalls and an orange t-shirt that accented his really nice biceps.  This is not an outfit that should have looked good on anyone over the age of three but, I'll tell you right now, it looked really nice on him.  His hair at that time was sort of long and those black locks were kind of flowing behind him.  I gaped at him.  I don't think I'd ever seen someone so good looking up close. 

Nonie is this smiley, happy guy (usually) and he must have sensed me staring at him (likely with mouth hanging open) so he turned to smile at me and say hello.  I believe I swooned. I know I turned bright red and stuttered.

All these years later he's just Nonie and he's like a brother to me.  But that first time?  Oh. Wow.

And even then, it didn't occur to me to wonder what Nonie was.  I didn't concern myself with his ethnicity.  I just thought he was frickin' gorgeous.  Their kids were gorgeous.  We never sat down with our kids and said Amara is half Filipino.  It just wasn't a conversation that needed to be had.

I don't really have any kind of ending to this story.  I plan on going into the school tomorrow and, in my very special Andrea way, raising holy Hell with both teacher and principal of the school.  I'm considering contacting these children's parents, if only to say, "Hey! Your ignorance is showing!"

The year is 2012.  We have a half white/half black President in office.  This kind of prejudice and ignorance is intolerable.  And I hope that you all, dear Reader, are as disgusted as I am.  And if you're not -- I don't want to know you or your children.  Because I have decided that me and my kids are going to be racially insensitive to idiots.

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