I never grew up with my Mexican father, and contrary to what most people think most Hispanic kids are not fluent in Spanish if they were born and raised in America and raised by non-immigrants, which also contrary to popular belief not many Hispanics are immigrants. My mother was also violently opposed to me or my older half-bother (who was the product of her and a white man) speaking or learning Spanish in anyway, to the effect that she grounded my at 3 years of age for learning what bobo and gracias meant. So by the time I was 5 I certainly didn’t know enough Spanish to converse with the grandparents of my friends let alone the immigrant kids that lived in the mostly poor and Hispanic neighborhood I was being raised in.

While I was light skinned for being mostly non-white most of the kids, parents, and police in the area considered me to be Hispanic and often made comments about how my older half-brother and I looked like we were from different families and that it was just oh so surprising that he wasn’t my mama’s newest – and whitest – boyfriend. Outside of these remarks constantly getting on my nerves it often meant people would try to speak to me in Spanish before asking me whether or not I knew the differences between hola and the hulla.

This landed me in the Spanish-to-English kindergarten transition class, when I was finally old enough to attend school. At first I didn’t really notice anything, because my neighborhood was in between the Hispanic and the black parts of town, so the idea of seeing a white kid in my class didn’t really cross my mind, and the absence of black kids could be explained by how few black kids there were in this side of town. I thought they were all just in the older classes. It made sense to my five year old mind, even if it was a bit illogical and ignorant of real life.

The first day of kindergarten is confusing for almost any kid, but none of my friends had been able to attend with me due to living two blocks down the road from me and thus just outside of my schools radius, and my half-brother hadn’t been able to take me further than down the hall from my classroom so I didn’t have even the comfort of being able to take my first glimpse of school life with someone I cared for. I blame this for not noticing that my teacher was speaking in Spanish as she herded us to our desks or our “estaciones de trabajo”.

I actually didn’t learn that the class and the teacher were weird until I was dragged off to the principals office after getting in to a fight with another child in the class. The teacher and kid had been yelling in Spanish and when I was dragged in to see the principal she asked the teacher to “translate” for us since it was only the first day and the principal “doubted I knew enough English just yet”.

This wasn’t the first time I had been confronted with the idea of “oh you’re a spic you must speak Spanish.” with white people completely ignoring the fact that I’m more a pocho than a spic if you’re using racist terminology here. No one ever gets that, even to this day, it makes me doubt humanities good nature.

Anyway when my mother came – because yes they just had to pile the shit on to the fiver year old – they tried to tell her that they needed my mother not an aunt that married in to the family. I had never seen my mother so close to hitting another women in my life. After shouting about how she hadn’t given birth to a “bastard child” and how I wasn’t “some dirty immigrant baby” – never mind that my father was a temp worker from Mexico when she met him, got knocked up and kicked him out – she requested I be moved to the “normal” kindergarten class. She was told there was no room for me, but the teacher would converse with me in English from now on, and I’d be allowed to move to the English class by mid-year when one of the students was slated to move and be withdrawn from the class.

My mother was less than happy with this, but she dealt with it and sent me back to class the next day. I got greeted in Spanish and when I tried to say “yo hablo Inglés”, and than backed it up by saying so in English I got told that it was great that I was “learning so quickly”, by the teacher who had been there when my mother had said I didn’t speak Spanish.

It took three months of this being a daily occurrence before I was pulled out of school for the year, but only because the normal class actually wasn’t going to have anyone dropping out that year. I still don’t know what my teacher was constantly yelling at me about, especially since my English work was always perfect.

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