The five incidents that impacted my life were the only ones that I recorded; however, even when I tried avoiding them, the interactions with people almost assures that there will be some point of collision.
I rode out to Coosa one evening to see one of my close friends. I was excited about the possibility of going to Georgia Southern and wanted to share the idea. I had attended Boy’s State one summer and enjoyed the campus so much, that I just felt that would be the place for me. So I was visiting a friend to get her take on my decision. Like a good friend she met the decision with questions. She felt that after West Rome I should consider going to an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Her perspective, though she possessed a diverse group of friends, was that our school was full of racist. I told her that HBCUs do not represent the real world population. I had not even considered the notion. So we went back and forth for a few minutes and I said we would agree to disagree. Little did I know HBCU was what it was going to be.
After incident 5 I had grown despondent about race in America. I kept thinking that if I learned to operate in all circles that somehow we would be accepted by all, even those that would hate without a cause. I had never even heard of W.E.B. DuBois at the time which would have helped me to understand the idea of “double consciousness.” Every moment spent out of my neighborhood was spent juggling consciousnesses.
The feeling of hopelessness is what led me to Savannah State College, an HBCU. It ended up being a quarter of partying with frequent visits to the Trust Bank and liquor store, but no one ever called me a nigger. And I did not juggle consciousness. Most of the people at Savannah State were contradistinctions to the perceptions which caused my white peers to harbor the word nigger so close to the surface of their lives, that in moments not worthy of being called dissension, they risked losing friendships, and being stomped to simply use the word.
After the quarter of vacation I ended up back at home eventually working in Lindale, hesitant to stand outside to await shift change for the fear that someone would ride by and call me a nigger. I was constantly reminded of the years that I spent ignoring signs of prejudice and bigotry. Its like I had a six sense for it. I went ahead and decided that blue collar work was not the direction that I was headed, and soon left for Normal, Alabama to Alabama A & M University.
A&M was similar to Savannah State in that it served as a safe haven for people like me that spent their lives coping with bigotry, prejudice, and apathy towards minorities. At times the struggle made groups like Sankofa, even other religions extremely enticing. As I began to probe for answers I realized how my own thoughts when juxtaposed to those of each individual in the incidents that drove me to an HBCU, had become a cluster of proclivities. The difference was that I took no joy in using terms considered to be derogatory against whites. I was apologetic of my thoughts and the stellar performances that I put on for years- years of acting as if the words did not hurt.
Race is what raised me. At times race signified running, the running away from what my gut said was reality. On other occasions race signified the one definition that says the fact or condition of belonging to a racial division or group; the qualities or characteristics associated with this. What I saw was moments of division that negated many great days. Though I am not proud of the way that I allowed the struggle to guide my decision making, I am proud of the friends that I developed both white and black, that sensed the different path that I was travelling. I was simply attempting to bridge the gap between both worlds amidst a panoply of predispositions. Along the way I temporarily aborted the mission, haven been influenced negatively by race.