I'd essentially be writing a paper on this were I to go into it, and since I figure I'll have to for class at some point, so I'll spare you from my thoughts now. The main gist of what I'm willing to share is that most people (myself included) have experienced racism or prejudice on some level, and today was "share n tell". So I said my piece we all know, about being mixed & not fitting in, and then being raised persian on top of it so having a separate cultural identity and then being in school during the Gulf War & Iran Contra affair with a bunch of AirForce kids and dealing with that and never really feeling like I fit in anywhere, and then the proportion of white to black kids in my graduating class.
Then someone asked what school I went to.
"I grew up in Oxon Hill."
Now I've been in clubs before where men have taken literal steps back when I mention that I'm from Oxon Hill, and have had them say "nah, ne'mind, she one of them chicks" to my face, I've had people step back and test my knowledge of the area to prove it, I've had people say that it's impossible because I don't act like it (which is a testament to my mother, and quite possibly the highest compliment paid to her that she never had the opportunity to hear).
I have never in all my born days (thus far) received a reaction like tonight. Of the 20 people in the class, 1 stood up, 3 in my immediate surrounding and 2 from the opposite side of the classroom gasped in all melodramatic deliciousness, and a great commotion began. Of the heads that turned, most were of "omg no way" expression, and the remaining two must not be from the area, because they looked like I'm sure I did, "what's all the fuss about?"
What IS all the fuss about when I say I'm from Oxon Hill? Is it because I don't sound like I'm from OH? Or look the part? Where precicely does the injustice lay? Am I undeserving of being from the city, and therefore pay it some disservice? What exactly IS this- this... reaction? Is it because no mixed kids are allowed to be a part of it? Did they run out all the Iranians and are upset they missed one? Wth is all that about?
Not that it matters. In a few years, I'll start adopting "I'm from Ft. Washington," and my childhood will be erased. I'll sound priviledged, and elite, as if mine is the yacht in the marina slip and I've always had a membership to the private pool at the end of the drive bearing my residence, and not the exclusive community pool that all the condo kids used, where spf was unnecessary for what better protection than the concoction of lotion, baby oil, grease and leave in conditioner which filmed the water, and adhered to the skin of all who rose as Venus from its clutch? Gone will be the admittance that I've seen drug exchanges in front of police cars in broad daylight on a school day and witnessed the rapid realism of the phrase "white flight." Forgotten will be the car alarms going off at various intervals from the regular, known addicts or the otherwise needy who forgot which car didn't have a system, or miscounted the spaces. Passing through the smoky haze of a displaced cannibus cloud in order to ascend the steps of a bus will be a thing of the past. Never again will I recall the countenance of the man known by no other name than "Boo," for never was another name called to which he answered, not even by school administrators. Mine is the land of iced teas and lemonades, not kool aid heaven where flavors are colors and 15 year olds learn to call each other and their elders, "son."
I'll never be from Fort Washington.
In other news, it was interesting to hear of the dynamic of the DC area in terms of integration, and how ignorance of the history of the area impacts one's understanding of why certain things work out the way that they do. For example, there are two schools in a particular district, both within 5 miles of Bolling AFB. One was a White school, priviledged and top of the line in it's time. The other was the Black school, neglected & needy. Ultimately, the White school was integrated, and over time the environment, demographic and therefore the dynamic of the communities shifted. It is my understanding (I allow for misinterpretation, please do the same) that both schools could have received some upgrades, but one school received an extensive renovation in favor of the other. As you may have guessed, it was the Black school that received the renovation. It begs the question, how deeply rooted is the pain of the Civil Rights Movement that these decares later, when the community- in certain districts- no longer bears a racial divide, that we still transfer the resentment in the new Century? Why couldn't both schools receive some sort of upgrade? Why the need to "sock it" to the other school? The world may never know. It may not even be a conscious decision, yet, knowing the District, it could very well be.
Speaking of the District, and given that tomorrow is Election Day, I don't think I could live in the District. I've often thought of it, especially with the idea of going to school there, and having the theater there... the notion that I should live amongst the people I aim to serve... but I can't live with the idea that my ideas wouldn't/might not be be represented in Congress. I love my right to vote. I don't love the Taxation Without Representation license plate, and what it means.
So we'll see how I feel about the MFA at Catholic University when I get back from Mexico. Speaking of, the more I think about Mexico, the more I like it. Even if I don't go to Japan, even if I go straight to Tanzania, or choose to forgo the experience entirely in favor of teaching & getting the school board to finance my degree. I think a month in Mexico's a go. I just like the idea more and more.
In completely unrelated news, I'd like to thank all the Persians and East Africans who want to see me happy. Thank you. When I ask you to quit saying what you're saying, it's not because I don't want to hear it, it's because by accepting it, I'm setting myself up for failure. What if your predictions are pipe dreams? In wishing for my happiness, you're not allowing for the other party to have a mind of his own. Please, don't help me disallusion myself. I'm far too good at doing that on my own.
Almost related to that, I had an opportunity to witness what I think people mean when they say someone is acting "a fool" or "silly." A fellow student knows a friend of mine, and during the break, we endeavoured to call him. While we both have the same carrier, my old phone decided not to be available, and so we called him from her phone. She did the thing where you move a way just slightly enough to assert yourself as the main one speaking, and proceeded to toy with him once he answered:
"lets play a game"
"who is this?"
This went on for a bit, and when I felt it had gone on too long, I told her if she kept it up, he'd hang up, so she may as well say who she was, in an attempt to move the conversation along, partially for his benefit, partially in case he'd recognize my voice and figure it out, and mainly because I was bored and didn't want to use up my break playing a game that only interested one person. So I said it to her twice, and sure enough, mid second repeat, he hung up.
Told you so. THEN, some invisible cloud parted above my phone and I had full bars, so I called him from my phone & recapped. As we went back in, I suppressed my desire to ask, "so is that what you mean when you say women are silly and play games?" But I resisted the temptation lest she heard me. Plus, I heard laughter in the background on his end, and figured he was entertaining so I left him alone as soon as I could. He said I could call him on my way home, but I didn't. Dunno. Just don't like the idea of interrupting people.
So what have we learned? We learned that I've experienced prejudice, being from Oxon Hill causes a stir, DC's funny about integration half a century later, voting is tomorrow, I can't imagine not being able to vote, I really like the program in Mexico, I'm debating wether or not to go to another country, women are silly, and I don't interrupt (or try not to) company.