So I grew up in Oakland, CA in a Black neighborhood. We never said “predominately Black” even if there were a sprinkle of other races. We certainly believed those in the sprinkle considered themselves to be living in a Black neighborhood, not a predominately Black one. When I was twelve-years-old, my mother moved her four children to a mixed area a few miles from Oakland, to a city called then San Lorenzo. For the next six years we would live in predominately white neighborhoods before returning from whence we came. For the purpose of this blog and while thinking about the movie Get Out, I’d like to give a glimpse of the first month in my new neighborhood at my new school. It was quite an experience.
The white girls in the elementary school I attended were so into me you would’ve thought I was a celebrity. I didn’t know I was as handsome as I was treated. But wait: was it handsomeness that had their attention the most? I learned later my Black handsomeness, my athletic ability, and my Black Oakland style intrigued them the most, infatuated them even. I became friendly with any girl who was friendly. There was one particular white girl—bless her heart, the poor sugar—who invited me to a party where other schoolmates would be. I’ll call her S. S. was perhaps the finest of the white girls at the school. But I did not get the feeling she liked me more than a friend. She offered to pick me up from my house to attend the party. Her dad double-parked. She rang the bell. She looked pretty standing at my door, smiling. This was the first time I’d ever gotten into a car with a white man and his pretty daughter. The dad was naturally amicable. I felt comfortable.
At the party there were more white girls, some who I knew liked me for certain. I was the only Black kid. They loved to see me dance, thought I was the best dancer ever in their world. There was one girl who liked me and kept wanting to dance with me. Later she asked a friend to ask me would I be her boyfriend. In an effort not to let her down or feel rejected, I said yes. The friend reported the news to her and she literally jumped in the air and landed with clenched fists tucked by her side and said, “Yes!” Other girls overheard and acted liked it was the greatest news reported. They were also surprised: the girl wasn’t that pretty. But that wasn’t the problem.
The problem was when S. found out she ran away crying to the nearest bedroom. A few girls went to comfort her. I had no idea she liked me. Weeks later I broke up with the girl at the party. S. called me when she learned the news. But by this time, I’d learned more about her. S. was not one of the cool kids. She lacked confidence; her self-esteem needed esteem. She asked would I be her boyfriend. I told her it wasn’t a good idea. She asked why and started to cry. I couldn’t bring my heart to break hers. She said, “I’ll do anything! Anything you want me to do! Just tell me what I can do for you? Anything, I’ll do it.” I thought, what is her malfunction? What did she know about me to like me to this degree? I’d been at the school less than a month, so what’s the cause for the tears, puddin’?
I kept repeating there was nothing she could do and reminded her she was a really nice girl. “You’ll find somebody else,” I said. “I don’t want anybody else. I want you! I love you! Why don’t you like me? What can I do? Just tell me! Please!!!” I felt bad for her. I feel bad just thinking of it. What was it about me?