“I can’t be friends with you anymore.”
These are the words my young mother heard from her childhood best friend after her father found out she was Hispanic.
The year was 1977 and my mom and her best friend were sophomores in high school. They had been hanging out together at my mom’s house after school and decided to bike over to Sarah’s house for dinner. When they arrived, both of her parents were already seated at the dinner table waiting for the two girls. They ate dinner, had a good meal and conversation. When dinner was over, my mom went on her way home. At school the next day, Sarah was avoiding my mom like the plague. They didn’t speak in any of the classes they had together nor did they eat lunch together like they always did. After school, the two typically walked home together – but not that day.
The following morning my mom approached her and asked her what was wrong. They had never fought before and she didn’t like the tension they were having. Quivering and teary eyed, Sarah told my mom they couldn’t be friends anymore because she was Hispanic and her father didn’t know she was hanging around a Mexican because my mom isn’t stereotypically dark skinned.
My mom went home that night feeling defeated. It was her first experience, but not last, with racism. Even to this day, when my mom tells this story, she will get emotional all over again as if she is transported back in time.
Not only did she lose a best friend that day but also her innocence to the cruel world we live in.