Black + White = Hispanic

Children go missing so often in department stores that they all have protocols in place to make sure, when it inevitably happens, the child is found promptly.

When I worked in the parking lot of Home Depot and the call came in over the radio that a child had gone M.I.A., I, and everyone other employee in the store, knew what to do. I guarded an exit with one one of the cashiers while a manager walked the store with the panicking mother to find the boy.

I recognized the mother. I saw her, her husband, and their son when they entered some fifteen minutes earlier. Still, we had to make sure every child that left the store was not the child. Patrons would ask what was going on and we’d explain a child was missing and give a brief description in case they saw him.

One man came up to me and the cashier and asked that very question. He said he was an off-duty police officer. Good, he knows what to do, the two of us thought.

I said, “He’s six years old and mixed race. Half-white, half-black.”

The cop asked, “He’s Mexican?”

The cashier and I both took a beat, reconstructing what I said. Maybe I included or excluded something crucial that would lead to such a conclusion.

“No,” the cashier explained while I was still bewildered. “His mother is black and his father is white.”

The so-called cop said, “Right, he’s Hispanic.”

Now what do you do in this situation? Do you explain genetics of race to this man? I certainly couldn’t do it in scientific terms (I barely averaged a C in biology), but I do know black plus white does not equal Hispanic. I could have tried, but I doubt I could have explained it in a way the grown man had not heard before and still believed what he did. I’m sure the cashier considered the same and fell to the same conclusion. Sometimes you have to let ignorance go. Besides, the kid was probably better off without Sherlock Holmes here on the case.

So the cashier simply said, “Sure,” still confused herself. And the man walked off to look for this mythical child while the cashier and I tilted our heads toward one another. Her black and me white, I wondered if we could make an off-race of a child, or maybe create a completely new race.

The call soon came in over my radio that the child was found at the Wendy’s next door. So the child was safe and sound. And the cop, hopefully just a man who lied about his profession, was…well, I’m still trying to make sense of what two people created him.

Joe Albanese is a writer from South Jersey. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry can be found in publications across the U.S. and in eight other countries. Joe’s novella Smash and Grab (Books to Go Now) was recently published and his novel Caina (Mockingbird Lane Press) will be published in 2018. twitter.com/JoeAlba88