“Why can’t I just be white? Sometimes I just wish I was white.”

Her right cheek is still bleeding
As she jumps into the passenger seat,
Having been jumped in the hallway
After sixth period.

We instruct our children
To never hit back—
Self-defense is not your defense
when you’re brown.

“Why?” I ask.

I already know who did it.
A failing girl who’d been her friend,
Who’d told her she answered too many teachers’ questions
And didn’t want to hear her straight A Mexican voice anymore.

Last week we told her
That it’s best not to look
The wild and angry
In the eyes.

A boy in fourth period asked her
Why haven’t you been deported yet?

And everyone laughed.
And the teacher said nothing.

She’s sobbing as we drive away
Low in the seat so no one can see.

“Because then everything I do could just be ignored.”

Later the principal will assure me
As if I didn’t know
That she did nothing wrong.
That they will not suspend my daughter
For being on the wrong end of a fist.

Later still, the principal will insist
It had nothing to do with race.