Monday, March 29, 2010

You Don't Belong Here

Growing up, I always did well in school.

Thanks to the constant threat of beatings from my father, and my own fairly decent intelligence, I've typically excelled in the classroom. However, my journey wasn't pothole free. My toughest challenges in an academic setting came in middle school and in grad school. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, those were the two times I went to "diverse" schools.

By diverse, I mean schools with white folks.

In middle school, I had one of my first experiences with being an "only." There were certain classes where I was the only black person present. I would sit on one side of the room, the white kids would sit on the other. At the time, I didn't really think about it racially, I was more worried about working out my algebraic equations. But, looking back, it was weird.

In fact, that experience, along with several others at that middle school, actually dictated where I would go to high school. In my city, there aren't many good schools, and at the time, all of the decent ones required you take tests to get admitted. All of the white kids were trying to get admitted to this one particular high school, let's call it The Bastion, which is one of the top ten schools in the nation. I also took the test for the school because my parents thought it would be good for me to attend.

I passed both the academic skills test and the IQ test, and got admitted right away. Several of my white classmates did not. I remember sitting with them in algebra class, and they were discussing what they were going to do, and how they might need to challenge their scores or something. Somehow, I volunteered the information that I had gotten admitted to The Bastion. Then I dropped my bombshell.

"Yeah, I got in, but I ain't going."

"Wait, you're not going?"

"Nah, I'm not going over there. I'm going to School X, that's a better spot for me."

School X was an all-black, magnet high school with a stellar reputation in the black community, and decent reputation among white folks. When I say "decent" I mean that white folks knew that kids got a good education there, but they still weren't going to send their children.

None of my classmates could comprehend my decision. This was The Bastion, if I went there I was guaranteed a top notch education. These white kids were killing themselves to get admitted, and I was turning down my spot?

Was I crazy?

Nah, I wasn't crazy, I had figured something out. I want y'all to read this story and this one and then I'll tell you what I had determined.

See, as those stories note, there are clear lines in much of the world. When you attempt to cross those lines, or boundaries, you have to deal with a lot of extra hassle. In one of the videos about the kids vandalizing cars, you hear a lady say that the black kids shouldn't have been in "our backyard." In the video about the police in the Midwest, you see city officials accused of telling the police to make black people realize they weren't welcome.

I knew The Bastion was a wonderful school, but I also knew that in a city that was 65 percent black, The Bastion's black population was only 12 percent. And very few of those black kids were boys.

It may sound cowardly given the heroic sacrifices of my black ancestors, but even as a child I understood that sometimes it's smarter to take the path of least resistance when it comes to race. Sure, The Bastion would have offered wonderful academic programs, but at what cost to my future happiness and well-being. What kind of emotional and social sacrifices would I have had to make? What kind of relationship would I have had with my teachers?

At School X, I was a black kid surrounded by black kids. Some of them were striving, others were chilling, but there was still a certain comfort level. Plus, as an academic standout, I was protected by teachers and administrators. Actions that might have gotten me into dire straits at The Bastion were treated differently at School X. Yes, I was still punished, but there was never the undertone that I was irredeemable, or dangerous. There was always the sense that these people believed in my potential and were deeply disappointed if I failed to live up to that potential.

That's something black folks typically sacrifice when they move in white spaces. That sense of support and nurturing often disappears with the melanin in the faces around us. Sometimes black folks can find staunch supporters and mentors in largely white groups, but it's not the norm. From what I've seen, the norm is a prevalent feeling that you just don't belong, and that you're infringing on someone else's territory.

It makes sense for people to protect their turf. But, it's almost inevitable that black folks will cross into white folks' turf frequently since the areas clearly delineated as "ours" often have inferior opportunities and services. When white people then use law enforcement officials and other officials groups to protect their boundaries, it can cause problems.

Is there a solution? Can we learn to co-exist? I hate the term "tolerance" but is that the most we can hope for since truly becoming "comfortable" is a pipe dream? How can we learn to drop the arbitrary boundaries we've created? Are the only choices for black folks assimilation or isolation?

I honestly don't know.

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23 comments:

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

I don't know either, dude.

People's racism and hatred for others just disgust me. I will never understand why some white people could be so cruel and hateful.

LisaMJ said...

I feel ya. Sadly I never had a choice b/c except for pre-school, I always went to predominately white schools and lived in a mostly white neigborhood. There were actually more kids from Asia (China, Korea, India) than there were black kids. Comparing stories with other black kids who grew up in similar circumstances, I was pretty lucky b/c I was fairly well tolerated and always had friends, BUT I always felt like an alien in my own skin. I might have felt like that no matter what but I don't think it would have been as strong. I seriously had a lot of mind decolonizing to do and I'm still working on it. I used to think, just like most folks, that unless someone said the "n" word or belonged to the Klan or something they weren't racist. Boy has that ship sailed.

Even though I live in DC, I find quite often I am still in lots of mostly white settings and sometimes I just spend time alone rather than bother. I keep thinking I should join a sorority to have more black folks in my life. I do find though at work I am definitely much more drawn to my black co-workers and usually feel safer with them and know they are much more likely to have my back. I also don't think I could live in a mostly white suburb again. I like being in the city and at least seeing lots of people who look like me. I don't know how my Mom does it.

LisaMJ said...

meant to say, I thought just like most WHITE folks

ch555x said...

I hear ya on the middle school surroundings. I was the lonely black face in the class for most of my 3 years there.

Toni_Forty21 said...

Great Post! I completely understand, and I don't consider your choice as cowardice, at all. Sometimes, you just don't need the extra BS! I graduated from a high school of 800 kids with 8 of "us" being black (the 10%ers). So again, I feel you, brother. We all have to do what's best for us...mentally.

Anonymous said...

It's good that you realized at an early age what was to work best for you. There were always a few Black kids in the schools I attended - sometimes there would be one in my class. But outside the classroom, I never felt that I fit in anywhere because I saw the ignorance in both sides. Outside the classroom, though...with the Black kids, it was as if being a good student was lame. With the White kids...they just didn't "get it".

Thordaddy said...

Lil man,

The first step would be to stop the pretense and admit that forced integration and assimilation ARE NOT primary goals for most mainstream blacks.

The second step would be to define black liberation as seperation from whites WITHIN America or complete seperation FROM America.

The last step to take would be for those favoring forced integration and assimilation. Is this belief transformative and liberating through destruction or transformative and liberating through enlightenment?

See lil man, YOU CHOSE SEPERATIONISM and claim to be better for it NOT MAINLY BECAUSE YOU SEPERATED FROM WHITES but because YOU JOINED OTHER BLACKS.

But truthfully, you chose Seperationism for both reasons.

So now you have no dispute with those that choose THE SAME TYPE OF SEPERATIONISM.

Fair enough?

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

Big Man, This was an excellent post and example of making the better choice. You had a great option, and I'm glad you took it so you could do what every American kid should be able to do: enjoy their childhood without being abused, and racism is abuse.

Big Man said...

Thor

Your solution assumes that I agree that America should be left to white people, or that black people should allow themselves to be herded into "reservations" like the Indians and slowly killed off.

Why is the white man's claim on this country stronger than mine?

Let's go, proof for proof.

Thordaddy said...

Lil man,

First, before we follow your diversion, let us account for the truth of YOUR ACTIONS.

In the liberal paradigm, YOU CHOSE SEPERATIONISM...

And YOU REJECTED INTEGRATION...

You chose to be amongst blacks...

You chose to seperate from whites...

SO ANYONE THAT DOES AS lil man DOES...

Is what, exactly???

As for who is more American?

Simply answer as to what type of black liberationist you are AND GIVE US THE ABILITY TO DECIDE whether you have even the minimum qualification for inclusion as an American.

You would certainly agree that if you are trying to transform America then you aren't really American?

I'm not positive of your aims at this time.

blackgirlinmaine said...

Big Man, this is a damn good post. Yes, I am Black chick married to a white guy and I live in Maine. Yet I am tad older and while I do miss the support that comes from being around my own, the older I get I draw my strength from the Lord and myself so it makes my outside surroundings less important.

Yet what you wrote is one of the reasons I am grappling with just how long I willl stay here. One kid is grown but I got another one to get through the schools and I do wonder how it will eat at her soul.

I spent my early days being the only one and truthfully it was not fun at all. I had to do a lot of work as a young adult to balance the scales

You give a lot of good food for thought.

Big Man said...

Thor said:

You would certainly agree that if you are trying to transform America then you aren't really American?



So, did you really mean to write this, or was that just a massive brainfart?

I mean, son, wow. That's just such horrible, horrible logic.

You really gotta step it up. Then again, maybe you should just keep doing what you're doing. Yeah, keep that up, it's actually better for my purposes.

Thordaddy said...

Lil man,

Once again you've carefully diverted from rationalizing and justifying your intellectual, spiritual and physical act of SEPERATIONISM.

Now to your astonishment, I assume that YOU BELIEVE one can transform AMERICA and still be AMERICAN.

I also assume that by TRANSFORMING AMERICA you understand that to mean making America into something other than America?

Now, if these are your fundamental understandings, THEN PLEASE DO TELL US HOW AN AMERICAN CAN TRANSFORM AMERICA INTO NOT AMERICA AND STILL BE AN AMERICAN?

In fact, your act of seperationism suggests an attempt to liberate from Americans and America. Or, are those white folk at Bastion X not real Americans?

Thordaddy said...

Lil man,

It's like do as I say, not as I do...

When you tryin' seperate,
It's like, "cooo,"
it's like, " I'm playin' theez white boyz fo' foooozz."

Buttjew the foolish one
Cuz you uh lyin', son...
N imma Lion, bruh...

Whatjew do is denyin' us
The same attraction
U sez uh repellant fuss
If white boy do it,
You curse and cuss...

And thus...

You show your true colors...
Deny it boy...
Buttjew ALWAYS HAVE and ALWAYS WILL be uh Brother...

Lie again lil man,
N I'm tellin' yur mother
Cuz you know momma
Ain't one tuh live undercover...

Untouched Jewel said...

Lunatic, what you did I believe wasn't cowardice or anything of that sort. It's like you said, you chose the "path of least resistance". what some ppl don't seem to understand is that for blacks, everything we do is ALWAYS scrutinized, whereas to a whites, they are the "exception" to the rule, because everything is handed down to them on a silver spoon and platter most, if not all of their lives.

Now, there was another commenter on here that mentioned something about liberating America, etc., but what they don't understand is that white ppl do this everyday. They liberate themselves from poor humble beginnings to a rich lifestyle and will do whatever it takes to get away from what they once were. But if black ppl do it, we are sellouts.

And I don't blame you, nor judge you for going to a predominately black top notch school with your peers. Had that been me, I would've done several times over and made no bones about it. The real meat and potatoes is that you got your quality education out of it all. So, everybody wins!

Thordaddy said...

Untouched Jewel,

You actually have it backwards. Lil man didn't choose the path of least resistance. Lil man chose the path of most attraction.

Big Man said...

Thor

You really need to work on your logic.

You're arguing that by trying to change something, you in effect want to destroy it.

As a Christian speaking to someone who has professed a belief in Christ, I find this logic astounding.

Is not your daily life an attempt to "change" and improve your connection with God?

Does this mean you hate yourself? Do you despise Thor Daddy?

How about when you attempt to mold and change your children, does that mean you hate them and your family unit?

I would think not.

Sadly, you've missed this massive whole in your logic.

Ah well.

Thordaddy said...

Lil man,

I said "transform" and you say "change."

I say that "transform" means changing America into NOT AMERICA.

And you say changing A PARTICULAR ENTITY into SOMETHING DIFFERENT doesn't mean that you have destroyed that PARTICULAR ENTITY.

If America ceases to exist BECAUSE you've worked vigorously to TRANSFORM it, how have you not killed America and destroyed Her?

What exactly will you have done once the transformation is over?

CNu said...

Big Man,

Did that gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe answer your kwestin yet?

Why is the white man's claim on this country stronger than mine?

Let's go, proof for proof.

Thordaddy said...

CNu...

Glad you could join... Now I expose two radically autonomous black liberationists with one post.

YOU ARE RADICAL AUTONOMISTS OF THE BLACK LIBERATIONISTS/LIBERAL "CHRISTIAN" VARIANT.

Meaning, your first principle is ABSOLUTE AUTONOMY.

And the main relationship that needs destroyed as the primary impediment to your AUTONOMY is your relationship WITH AMERICA.

You have no claim on America or being American FOR THE SIMPLE REASON THAT YOU DON'T WANT ONE. You don't want to claim to be an American. You "are" by circumstances not under your control.

You silly fools no more want to be Americans living in America than I want to be an "African" American living in Africa.

Jive hustle, IT.IS.UP!

CNu said...

lol,

tile-laying peckerwood peasant..,

did you answer the man's question yet or are you still just gassing up the joint with that septic stank breath huffin out your meth-mouth?

Thordaddy said...

C N U???

Nothing.

Again... And again... And again.

THERE.IS.NO.QUESTION.

On one side is an irrefutable, undeniably real American and on the other side two autonomists THAT WOULD NEVER CLAIM TO BE AMERICAN AND CLAIM TO WANT TO LIVE IN AMERICA.

Claim it or shame it, craigee...

Big Man said...

Thor

You love putting words in my mouth.

I'm not an American now?

Check my archives son, I wrote on that very topic after a vacay out of the country with my wife.

Cnulan did me a great service by pointing out how you've dodged that question, I would have let you slide since I'm used to your tangents and rants.

So, when you stop patting yourself on the back for opposing two black radical autonomists in one post:

Why don't you answer the question?

Raving Black Lunatic