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The Whitey-Ricans and other bogeymen

The Whitey-Ricans and other bogeymen

In honor of black history month, I plan to focus on the role of race in our day and age.
As with most things, my understanding begins at home, in the ECB.

East Coco Beach is an all-black neighborhood. Oh, wait, there’s an elderly white woman who lives on the fifth floor of my building. She’s been there for thirty-five years, best that I can figure. She used to live with her husband, who weighed more than 400 pounds, but he died five years ago, and now, she’s alone.

White people work here though. The men who run the pizzeria (when I was a kid they were Italian, now they’re Polish), the librarians, the dress shop owner across the street and the cops: but they left everynight at 6. Except the cops.

After school and on school holidays, my mom dropped me off at my babysitter’s apartment. She was 80 years old and one of the kids in her care was her nine-year-old grandson, so we all invariably also called her ‘Grandma.’ There were eight elementary-school aged children at Grandma’s and six babies. Two of the girls were light-skinned black kids, complete with “straight hair,” five of us were brown-skinned and one boy was an actual shade of black.

He suffered, non-stop torment.

Blackie, Sambo, Kunta, nappy-head, Shaka Zulu, name it: if it sounded bad, he was called it. On most days, Chris, the oldest of us, called him stupid and black-faced and hit him on the head with the handle of a brush.

Black was definitely not something you wanted to be at Grandma’s.

In school, it was a whole different story.

There were two white children in my whole elementary school. Out of hundreds of children, there were two. Twin sisters in fact, and their mom taught the advanced section of fifth grade. But we didn’t find that out until much later.

They started the school in third grade, white interlopers in a class full of kids who had been together since kindergarten.

Tyrone pulled their hair, Jackie hid their books, Mark called them honky-tonks and whitey. No one played with them at recess.
I remember Sarah screaming that they weren’t white, they were Puerto Rican and everybody should leave them alone.
But Gabrielle messed it all up, and said it wasn’t true.
Thenceforth, they were Whitey-Ricans.

White was definitely not something you wanted to be at P.S. 235.

That was the extent of racial understanding, when I was very young. And obviously, it was ill-informed at best. When Grandma or a teacher would ask why we did this or that to the Whitey-Ricans or Little Black Sambo, we would cast our eyes downward, shrug our shoulders and say sheepishly:
“we don’t know.”

I saw a Diane Sawyer special a few months ago about how elementary school children viewed race.
Predictably, the black children said the white children couldn’t be trusted and the white children said that the black children were scary, although both sets of children admitted they had never met an actual white or black child, respectively.

Diane then said, well, then how do you know white/black kids are what you think they are.

One child closed his eyes real tight, squirmed in his chair, tapped his forehead with his fingers and suddenly blurted out:

“We just know.”

How times have changed.

6 Responses to “The Whitey-Ricans and other bogeymen”

  1. Kashei Says:

    Blah blah, I’m black, blah blah.

  2. Kashei Says:

    Blah blah, I’m black, blah blah.

  3. Kashei Says:

    Blah blah, I’m black, blah blah.

  4. Rick Blaine Says:

    Blah blah, I’m Whiteymanian, blah blah.

    Viva el Istmo!

  5. Rick Blaine Says:

    Blah blah, I’m Whiteymanian, blah blah.

    Viva el Istmo!

  6. Rick Blaine Says:

    Blah blah, I’m Whiteymanian, blah blah.

    Viva el Istmo!

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