by K.J. Adan
When I came to America in 1980, there were a lot of things I didn’t know that freaked me out. I obviously didn’t know the Pledge of Allegiance.
I didn’t know that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches did not have gelatin in them. American money, although far more sensible than English money, scared the hell out of me. It had a ton of different men on it, and it was all the same colour! The roads were really wide. This seemed like an alien land full of crazy people to me.
The one thing I really loved about America, right off the bat, was black people.
England has black people. I was friends with the black kids in my class in Croydon, too, but the only difference between English white people and English black people is colour. They talked the same, dressed the same, behaved the same. To many of you, this may seem a Utopian gift. “Black people in the UK were just like English people with serious tans? Wow, no Ebonics? That’s a dream come true!”
Ah, but I watched American TV. I craved American black people. My Grandad loved Kojak, so I was exposed to Huggy Bear. I watched ChiPs, Sesame Street (remember Gordon, Susan, and the purple puppet Franklin?), and whatever else my mum would let me see. American black people were hip, exciting, and funny to watch on American TV.
Then I came to America and started American school, where I met real honest to God American black people. I must have been adorable or something, because the black kids in my school and neighbourhood adopted me like a stray dog. I became particularly close to Marcia (which, we reminded every substitute teacher in unison, was pronounced Mar-SAY-uh!), who immediately taught me every rhyming game and tried very patiently to get my sad white ass to learn Double Dutch.
Jamal came to my house almost every day. He took the mickey out of my accent, and I tried in great, studious earnestness to learn his. His mother taught my mother to French braid my hair, which was a great source of relief to my Mum as my hair was long enough to sit upon.
At Girl Scout camp, I was immediately integrated into the group of black girls. I learned more rhyming and clapping games, my favourite being “A! A! A! I don’t wanna go to Africa no more! More! More! There’s a big fat policeman at my door! Door! Door!” It had a really complicated patty-cake pattern and I was one of two white girls in the whole camp who mastered it.
I then moved and ended up going to a private school. I was suddenly sans black people, and I was actually lost. In retrospect, I think the black kids took to me because I, like them, was also an outsider in super white New England. I had a funny accent, we were poor immigrants, and I was, let’s face it, a giant nerd. I had no black people in the private junior high, so I had no people to speak of. Eventually I made friends with some quiet nerdy girls, but it wasn’t the same. We band of four geeky chicks were victims. We kept to ourselves.
Black people in America embrace their “outsiderness” with joy, for better or worse. Black folks have a culture that they can call home. They have always been perfectly happy to share it with me. I think I was protected because non-whites in my experience didn’t invite the black kids to their birthday parties, but they sure didn’t make fun of them; to them, that was racist. I didn’t have the experience of being teased in America until I was no longer with the jubilant, defiantly happy black kids. When I lost black kids, I lost my confidence.
In high school, I had managed to accept that I was just a nerd and I fell in with a nerdy crowd. I was both a theatre geek and sci-fi loser. I did, however, find some black folks again. The difference in high school is that my black folks made fun of me, but by now I was aware that I deserved it.
One day I showed up to school in this awesome little white dress I had bought on vacation. I wore white Keds with it, and carried a white bag—sad to say. I walked up to my black folks and said hi. As I was leaving, one girl said, loud enough for me to hear, “She looks like a tampon!”
They roared with laughter. I stopped dead in my tracks, and they went silent. I turned around and was laughing so hard I was shaking with no sound. They re-erupted into laughter. Not that I needed it, but my black friends kept me grounded. I never wore that horrible outfit again.
I am once more a token white girl, this time in a sea of black conservatives. Nobody black thinks this is weird, but it has elicited some giggles from white friends. Just like in school, I’m not treated any differently than anybody else. When I’m with black folks, I’m not constantly reminded that I’m a different colour. When I’m with normal white folks, though, I am constantly reminded that I’m a geek, a right wing fascist, and the token female. Is it any wonder I feel more comfortable around weird white folk and normal black folk?
I wish the white left could give black people the same consideration they give us. The left simultaneously elevates and denigrates blacks by setting them aside as a protected class, as though all black people have the same socioeconomic status, goals, and background.
While American black people all have a unique shared history, and hence access to a culture unique to this country, their present and their future are entirely up to them, just like everybody else. Could we please have the respect to treat them that way? That’s how they treat us; just watch what you’re wearing.
My goal here is simple; I want black people and non-racist white people to realize they have a choice. The left is not the only place for them; in fact the separatism and special class perceptions of the left makes it a bad place for them.
If you want freedom of choice and dignity for all people, regardless of their differences, you want to hang out with us. We watch NASCAR, read books, are poor, rich, regular, and suck at Double Dutch. We don’t elevate intellectuals to “godhood”; we already have a God, and He loves everybody, period. We’re the weirdoes now, and our lunch table is always open to ya. Have a seat.