I can remember the first time I was confronted with the insipid idea that I wasn't black enough. The fall of 1990 was my senior year in high school and I had enjoyed years of friendships with classmates of all races, religions and creeds.
Halloween was always celebrated at my school by wearing the most outlandish costume allowed. Unfortunately, on that day of the 31st a white student decided he would come to school dressed as Jimi Hendrix"”a big black fro, a guitar strapped around his back, flared bell bottoms, and brown shoe polish smudged all over his face. The stunt had infuriated an already irate black student body that was already convinced they were being unfairly treated at this predominately white school.
The following day, all of the black students came to the bus stop dressed in black from head to toe"”ready to protest. On the way to school one of the students on my bus turned to me and asked: "Hey man why ain't you wearin' no black?" I looked squarely in his eyes and said: "My skin is black and I wear it everyday"”that's enough for me." He poked his lips out and rolled his eyes as he turned back around to the other students clad in black and planned and plotted who they were going to take out once we reached the campus.
Another student that was sitting in the very back of the bus (how ironic) scornfully yelled: "Hey man don't say nothin' to him cause he ain't black anyway! He a wannabe!" The following day a mob of black students proceeded to triple team the teachers and unmercifully beat down white students at random. Some of the white students had already anticipated the riot and they responded by spraying a cloud of pepper spray, temporarily blinding many students and teachers.
The principal was stabbed with a fork out of the lunchroom, and the shop teacher retaliated by running out to his truck to retrieve his revolver. He fired a shot in the air, thinking the shot would startle the mob of students and stop the fighting. Unfortunately, firing the gun only served in the shop teacher's termination.
The High School was closed for two days while the administration planned their retaliation. A list of black male students that were involved in the riot was quickly generated and those students were expelled. They had to finish the remainder of their senior year exiled from the county and attended the neighboring high schools in the city system--condemned not to walk with their graduating class--friends that they had gone to school with, some, for 12 years, all due to ignorance and stupidity.
The morning of the first day back to school the students were on the bus celebrating the pseudo-martyrdom of the students that were expelled and congratulating the ones that had somehow evaded expulsion.
While on the bus back home from school a group of students criticized me for not being involved in the beat down. I was angry and ashamed, not because I was being ostracized, and not because I didn't participate in the riot but because sitting right behind me was a brother sitting proudly with his white girlfriend. I was outraged that no one had even said anything to the interracial couple as they coddled each other.
How could this brother be amongst us pawing his white girlfriend and go unpunished? He was immune to ridicule because he was a part of the clique, the in crowd, and a multi-talented athlete. He was a star on the wrestling team and the football team.
Not only was he worshiped but he was also feared because he was the biggest black athlete in the school. Nevertheless, he went beyond mere friendship with whites to the point of intimacy, a feat I had never attempted yet I was an outcast all the same. The white principal that was stabbed with a fork took early retirement and was replaced with a black principal that systematically expelled the remainder of the black male students that were involved in the riot, as well as further darkening the spirit of the remainder of the black student body with an iron fist.
Incidentally, the black principal reminds me of what Bull Connor and the Birmingham police did during the Birmingham riots. The K-9 unit had a big black German Shepard--it's name was Nigger. Whenever they would go after a crowd of teenage black protesters, they would unleash the big black German Shepard, saying, "Go git em,' Nigger!!"
I encountered the same type of reverse discrimination in college where I was insatiably active as a chairperson in the collegiate chapter of the NAACP and the African American Association. The same black students that ostracized me for not being black enough were the same students that evaded the responsibility of being consciously involved with the African American Association and the NAACP, the only two black organizations on campus that worked tirelessly in solving issues regarding how black students are treated on campus academically and socially, and providing black oriented entertainment and speakers for the black student body.
Many of these students that were members of the NAACP and the AAA, many that considered themselves to be ˜black,' never participated in the meetings that needed to be held to plan the logistics of each organization's endeavors to improve black college life, unless the AAA or NAACP was holding a block party (FREE PIZZA!) or sponsoring a concert for acts like Queen Latifah or Biggie Smalls.
The greeks on campus fell all over themselves, trying to make sure their frat or sorority letters were on our organizational t-shirts that I designed but they never showed up to our meetings or supported any of our functions.
Various students, that weren't members of the AAA or NAACP, didn't mind showing up to our doorstep to gripe and complain about discrimination experienced by certain professors, particularly, in the English department, which I personally rectified through a meeting with the President of the University.
Some of the members of the NAACP and AAA griped and complained about not having enough entertainment but when the footwork was needed to advertise for a Biggy Smalls concert, the turnout was so meek because we didn't have enough manpower to get enough flyers out, there wasn't enough money to pay Biggie and he, in turn, beat down the promotor of the show. This discussion, a mere glimpse into my life as a young black man, is a response to a review written by, Dutch Martin, on John McWhorter's book, "Losing the Race."