So… I’m cleaning out my files, preparing for whatever inevitable presents itself in the next few weeks, and found THIS…
It’s a story I have written in at least 2 other versions… It’s a story, a conglomerate of experiences I’ve struggled to tell.
Well, in this particular version… I chose the advice to ‘just write like you talk’.
For me? This is proof… DON’T FALL FOR IT! lol.
Here’s a portion of it…
Little White Girl Copyright 2017 – T. Riggs
Racism is not one-sided. Though racism is considered and often portrayed as an us against them struggle, the struggle is really just us against us.
I grew up in the South. I often found myself in the middle of a socio-cultural war so normal and so much a part of daily existence; it is only in retrospect I am able see the duality or even the dividing lines within it.
Those lines are less clear than is comfortable for us to admit.
I was born and lived in a small town in southeastern Georgia until I turned 12. The town of 5000 people was almost 75% black, yet the black population lived in 2 neighborhoods.
Given the diversity of our classrooms, it is hard to believe any animosity existed between the races. Despite the physical and social division.
In school, going on 30 years ago now, the term “white” or “black” was never used.
In fact, I can’t remember a single time I ever heard a teacher use the terms.
We did what all kids do in elementary school. We learned to read and write, memorized our times tables, did math and science. And we played together on the playground, regardless of our race.
Home was a different story.
It was an event in one of these ‘black’ neighborhoods where, looking back, I realize I was initiated into the global concept of racism. This one event helped me learn some of the most self-defeating, knee-jerk reactions to it; exclusion and self-segregation:
Madeline and Margaret were my partners for a school poster project. I asked my mother if they could come to our house, but she gave a firm “No”. They were black, and my mother said she couldn’t risk the neighbors’ wagging tongues. Money was tight, she didn’t know if they would need a loan next week or not.
I called over to Madeline and Margaret’s house and asked if I could come over. Their mother said yes, my mother said “okay, fine”. It was only 3 blocks after all.
But it might as well been another planet. I had never been in the neighborhood. I’d only seen the rows of shotgun houses from the car or the school bus. The neighborhood itself was 2 dead end streets, side by side, on the edge of town. There was a slightly larger, black-only neighborhood with newer homes, on the other side. This was the older one.
The houses here were small shotgun-style with large front and back yards. Most of them were clean, whitewashed-lime wooden planks, and neatly kept. More than a few of them had nice cars out front. Those luxury sedans that could seat an entire family for a ride to Sunday Church services. I imagine I was a little excited to get to see the houses up close. I gathered my art supplies and began the three-block trek.
I turned onto the first street and began walking down towards the house. It wasn’t far from the road, maybe the third or fourth house… there were some kids playing in the front yards of the first and second houses. I glanced at them, some I recognized from the bus. But, I didn’t know any of them by name. None of them were in my grade, they were either older or younger. And they weren’t smiling.
“Hey little white girl, whatcha doin’ in our neighborhood!” Two boys, both a little older than me laughed as they approached. They nodded to each other once – and moved to either side.
I stopped and backed away a little. Making sure to maintain space past arms reach. It began to look like some awkward waltz, forward, back, over, back forward. I clutched my art supplies tight, ready to take off running at the first attempt to invade the space I was still managing to maintain.
“I’m going to Madeline and Margaret’s.” I looked them both in the eyes and nodded in the general direction. I tried to go around them and was getting ready to make a run for it.
“We don’t want you here! Go home little white girl!”
The loud taunts of the boys had drawn the attention of some other children playing in a nearby yard. They rushed over to join in. “Yeah! Get out little white girl!” A little girl, skinny and light-skinned yelled at me. She was just a year or two younger. Her multiple, frazzled-looking, pony-tail braids bounced as she wiggled her head side-to-side for affect. She picked up a rock.
The other children laughed. Nudging one another with elbows, they picked up rocks too and began to circle around me.
Just as I turned to leave, I heard a screen door slam. I was relieved to see Madeline and Margaret running towards me. Madeline and Margaret were twins. They had dark-skin, the shiny sheer black that always looks flawless. They were tall for their age and thin. Their mother always kept their hair neatly done up in smooth, long braids.
Out of breath, they each pushed one of the older boys away. They leered at the other children. “Leave her alone.” Madeline shouted at the oldest boy. He stuck his tongue out at her and picked up another rock. Then the volley began.
Madeline and Margaret placed themselves on either side of me and we waded through the short assault of gravel. “I’m gonna tell your mother!” Margaret snapped at the younger girl with bouncy braids. We made our way as quickly as possible down the road. After a few yards, the children finally gave up and went back to playing.
 Later, only a few years after this happened, there were ‘projects’ built at another part of town. My family moved to the ‘projects’ the summer I turned 8 years old. We lived there for 3 years. That is a topic for a whole other blog though… needless to say, it was a ‘mixed neighborhood’… white, black, Mexican, Iranian, Puerto Rican, Cuban… etc. And was an interesting experience.