When I was a white kid growing up in a suburb of Boston, I didn’t know any people of color. The only non-white I went to school with was named Lopez, and I just thought they must be Italian.
The only black people in my consciousness were Emmanual Lewis from the sitcom “Webster,” and Gary Coleman from the sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes.” I also knew “The Jeffersons,” “Good Times,” and “Sanford and Son.” These shows were all I knew of black existence.
Until A.C. came to town.
A.C. was black, and beautiful. Another black child enrolled in my fourth grade class at the same time. So of course everyone assumed they were siblings. They looked nothing alike. And they were not, in fact, siblings.
A.C. was smart, funny, charming, thoughtful, and cute. I fell hard into puppy love. I’ll never forget the feeling of our hands together while touring a historic building on an otherwise boring field trip. That hand in mine, I think that is the first time I have ever blushed.
Our teacher, Miss T., was less enthused.
Miss T. was a terror. Her hobby was knocking over students’ desks and dumping out all their contents across the floor. It was a humiliating and shocking thing to witness. I never experienced it myself. I think, looking back, I was immune to her anger because I was the whitest kid in the room.
A.C. was not. Their desk not only was toppled, it was thrown across the room. Their books were tossed out the open window to the ground two stories below. When they waited in line, Miss T. would saunter up to them and grab them by the front of their shirt and lift them off their feet and growl I don’t know what words. One day, after emptying much of the contents of A.C.’s desk, she swept their chair out from under them. A sneaker fell off, and was subsequently dumped out the window. When A.C. instinctively scrambled to the window to look out, Miss T. grabbed their legs and dangled the dumbfounded student headfirst out the window. The entire class was hushed. No one came to their rescue. What could we do? What would we do?
A.C. moved during the summer between fourth and fifth grades. I wonder about them sometimes, and feel this strange sense of loss and sorrow flush my face. I miss them still. And wish I could have done something different.