Carmela moved to Connecticut from Alabama with her mother and brother. She came into my classroom and checked out her surroundings with a sad look on her face. She couldn't believe she was here. It was a drastic change from where she had come from, but almost immediately she became friends with me and my best friend Rachael.
One day we planned that she would come home with me after school to work on a reading project and have dinner. When my mother pulled into the parking lot to pick us up, she stared at me with disbelief as we walked to the car. We got in, and I introduced Carmela to my mother.
"Mom, this is my good friend, Carmela. You'll probably be seeing a lot more of her. She's from Alabama"
"Nice to meet you, Carmela," she said, not even looking at us. She pulled out of the driveway and headed home as fast as she could.
"Nice to meet you, too," Carmela said politely, but quietly. We talked the whole ride home, but I kept an eye on my mother. She said nothing as she drove, and didn't even smile. Usually my mother would engage in conversation with my new friends and ask questions, especially if they were from out of state. But I knew why she didn't even bother to learn more about Carmela - she was black.
When we arrived home, Carmela took one look at our basketball hoop and started shooting. I went inside after my mom and asked what was wrong.
"Nothing, Sarah," she responded.
"No, Mom, don't tell me nothing. What's the matter?" She didn't answer or look at me. "So, what do you think of Carmela?" I asked pointedly.
She looked at me, tapping her pen on the granite. "She's nice, I just ..."
"You just what, Mom?" my eyes widened.
"I just don't have a really good feeling about her, Sarah," she said.
"You just met her, and you only said one sentence to her!"
"I know, but you know I have good gut feelings," she tried to explain.
"No, I know exactly what it is." I stared at her with disgust. I kept my eyes locked on hers. I was enraged that she would be so judgmental and rude. "What am I supposed to tell her, Mom, to go home and that she can't eat with us?"
"No, she can," she said, looking down.
"That's right, she can. I cannot even believe you!"
"Sarah, you're jumping to conclusions."
"No, I'm not. You're just nervous because I figured you out."
Dinner came and my dad had a great conversation with Carmela. There was laughter and smiles, and he thought she was wonderful. Mom said a total of five words.
I went with my mother to take Carmela home.
"Thank you," Carmela said politely. "And Sarah, I'll see you Friday." She shut the car door.
My mom glared at me as we drove away. "You know you're not going on Friday, right?"
"Now I do. You've made it clear."
"Oh, stop it, that's not the reason."
"Yes, it is."
My mom had a "bad feeling" about Carmela because she's African American. My mom grew up in a very prejudiced home and was not exposed to any interracial activities. Although her childhood may explain her actions, it still infuriates me.
I looked at her and said, "I have a lot of respect for you because you are my mother, and most of the time I will listen to you. But you are wrong here, Mom. You have not even given my friend a chance, and you are trying to cut off our friendship because she's African American. Carmela is a good friend, and I'm sorry if you are going to be superficial and only look at what you can see. I am going to be friends with her no matter what you say, because I see more than her skin color."
I walked away with an overwhelming sense of maturity, knowing that for the first time, I'd showed my mother I had grown up. I proved to my mom through my friendship with Carmela that a person's skin does not determine what kind of person he will be. To this day, Carmela and I are close even though she moved back to Alabama. And as far as my mother and me, our relationship is improving every day.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.