Though my parents sent me to a tiny, predominantly White parochial school, me, along with most of the "ethnic" students wound up riding the same van, driven by Mr. Poland to school. Incidentally, Mr. Poland was Filipino.
Most of the young kids sat in the front, and although I was only in the third grade, had to sit in the second to last row of the silver four-row van. The latter rows were reserved for the upper classmen of our school—the 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Since I was one of the last kids to be dropped off, I forced to sit in the back.
One day, out of rudeness, a twice-left back seventh grader named Shareece took off her shoe and extended her leg along the window’s edge so I could see her dirty, blackened foot. And smell them. I was two minutes away from home, and was hoping she would not harass me that day as she often had. Apparently not. As tears hot, silent tears started streaming down my cherubic face, all the upper classmen, including Shareece started to laugh. Loudly.
As I exited the van, I saw my mother waiting for me. She took one look at me and started yelling.
"Whey di azz yuh de cry fah?" Though her tone was gruff, I knew she wasn't upset with me; she was concerned...and probably panicked.
As I started telling her the story, Mr. Poland was getting ready to close the door and drive off.
"Just you wait a minute," my mother said to Mr. Poland and stepped closer to the van. She had code-switched to standard American English so he could understand her.
"What kind of van service are you running where my child gets bullied on her way home?"
I could see Shareece glaring at me. I almost wished my mother had not said anything.
Turning crimson, Mr. Poland apologized, stating he couldn't see what was happening in the back but would move my seat closer to the front the next day. Thinking that was resolution enough, he made a move to close the door, only my mother stopped him. She climbed in the van, then turned to me and asked me to point out Shareece. I was mortified, but not idiotic, so I complied.
Shareece adjusted her two long cornrows in front on her shoulders. Despite her attempt to be cool, nervous was visibly taking over.
"Now you look here, Ms. Shareece." My mother had sneered the word miss, so I knew Shareece was about to get it. Good.
"The next time you take off you stinking foot and shove it eena me chile face, I'll climb into the back of this van and shove my foot right in your face.
A hot, sweaty foot that was in nursing shoes all day. Then tell me how funny it is."
My mom climbed out backwards, her eyes never leaving Shareece's face. After she slammed the door, we stood there until we could no longer see the van. Then my mom turned to me and said, “Don’t you ever be a dummy again and let someone disrespect you like that. If I find out that happens again, I’ll be out here with a belt.”