Monday, January 16, 2006

the more things change...

"go home nigger!"

the teenager had never heard the word directed towards her before, nor had she ever heard so much hatred flooding through a person's voice like a bitter and relentless deluge of antipathy crashing through the levy of her innocence. she glanced around nervously, afraid to make eye contact for fear of seeing the disgust pooling in their eyes, afraid that disgust was powerful enough to kill her where she stood.

this was her first march.

her mom, always one willing to protest against injustice and in particular, injustice against black people, had brought her and her younger brother here to this place. this place where hatred for her kind grew in acrid vines of animosity, weaving their way through skin and muscle to strangle the spirits of its inhabitants until every drop of tolerance had evaporated into fumes of acidic fury. the teenager bent her head to deflect the words being hurled at her from left and right, her eyes staring at the brown shoes encasing her toes now curled tightly in agitation.

it was a cold and grey day in january.

her school was intergrated. she and other black kids had been bussed in from black neighborhoods to attend a white school in a white neighborhood. nobody protested their presence then. when she stepped off the schoolbus that first day she was overwhelmed with terror as she stared wide-eyed at the tall structure. it was a glassy-eyed monster with menacing winged brows. its scaley skin of blood-red brick gleamed even brighter in the sun as the door to the entrance gaped wide like a dragon's mouth ready to spew fire onto the first person to walk into it. she had remained standing, her feet rooted to a spot just below the curving stairs, unwilling to become the dragon's first meal. eventually she was persuaded to enter after viewing others walking through the door with no flame incinerating them upon entry. her interaction with the white people there, save the one teacher who looked at her brown skin with disdain, would eventually have her looking at the school in a new way. the bricks became rose-hued, as did her view of the world.

"take that you dirty nigger!"

she was slapped out of her reverie by the force of a rock as it hit her in the side of the head, knocking her rose-hued glasses from her face to shatter upon impact with the pavement below. fear siezed her as she immediately huddled over, her hands covering her head as she scrambled to become invisible within the crush of bodies around her. her mom was yelling something towards the side of the road where the angry white people stood with confederate flags, her face contorted as she reached for the teen who had suddenly regressed into infancy, gathering her close to her bosom.

"did that rock hurt you?" her mom asked her as she pressed her fingers softly against the teenager's scalp, searching for a bump or a cut.

the teenager gulped, her eyes frantic as she stared back at her mother while she tried so hard to keep her agitation hidden.

"no," she whispered brokenly.

"don't worry about them, baby." her mom whispered back, trying to reassure her as she hugged her close before letting her go.

the teenager said nothing. as she watched her mom walk a few feet away to talk to one of her other friends who had come to join the march with them, all she could think about was leaving. she just wanted to go home. she wanted to go home and watch televsion where the world was perfect and everyone got along. she wanted to go to school and talk to her best friend, a white girl who could care less about the color of her skin. she didn't want to be reminded that people still hated her just because she was black.

she didn't want to be here.

'here' was cumming, georgia, 1987.