SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2012 Personal Memory Ethnographies
Red Ranger is White, Black Ranger is Black
I am not sure when I fully became aware of race, but in kindergarten at Booth-Fickett I knew I was black. This is mainly due to my parents discussing family history and situations they have had that involved skin color. Most importantly, I was aware of other kids having different colored skin than I did but at the same time the meaning of that difference was small. Now in kindergarten I remember that the class was predominately white. There were other ethnicities in the class just not that many. Sometime later on in the year I befriended my friends Brock and Chris, who were both white and were a part of my class. During recess we would always play games that involved having good guys and bad guys. Most of the time we would just reenact the TV show Power Rangers and save the world from evil.
One day at recess my friends and I along with other kids from the playground were preparing to play Power Rangers. I wanted to be the Red Ranger this time because one, he was the leader and two; I was tired of being the Black Ranger. I wanted to lead the other kids around to destroy monsters and fight crime. So at the start of the game I quickly shot my hand up like a rocket and stated that I was Red Ranger. My claim created so many issues for the remainder of recess. Some of the kids who were playing with us were saying I could not be the Red Ranger because Red Ranger was white not black. Being black myself I automatically had to be the Black Ranger and no one else.
Leading up to this day I had had no problem being the Black Ranger but after portraying this character repeatedly it was time to embody another character. I was obviously upset and remember calling everyone stupid and throwing sand at those who were against me be Red Ranger. An on duty teacher got involved and demanded to know what was going on. I explained that I wanted to be Red Ranger but couldn’t because Red Ranger is white. Many, but not all of the kids agreed with the reasoning of me not being Red Ranger. In response, the teacher said anyone of us could play any ranger we wanted. The teacher was trying to convince us to see that an individual’s skin color does not have to match the character in portrayal in order for us to pretend to be them. Some kids understood and others remained unchanged.
What disappointed me was when I finally was able to be Red Ranger; some kids did not want to play. When I wasn’t Red Ranger, the kids who had not played before wanted to play. It was a good feeling that my friends Brock and Chris were on my side and thought it did not matter who played Red Ranger. Sometimes I would just pass on the chance to be Red Ranger so everyone would play. I remember thinking maybe a person could not be anything they wanted to be in the world like my teachers and parents would always say.
This negative thought mainly came about due to a fellow classmate named Bobby. I would not classify Bobby as a bully or bad child because he did not pick on other kids. Nor did he cause a whole lot of trouble. At least not in my presence Bobby didn’t. He was the type of kid that if he did not get his way more times than not, he would throw a fit. Bobby is the main kid who had a problem with me becoming Red Ranger. He also is the one who convinced some of the kids that skin depicts what character one could play. From Bobby’s point of view, my skin color defined what I was able to do and pretend to be. Skin is non-removable armor that is visible for all to see and make judgments based on its color. In actuality what Bobby was saying indirectly was that I was not allowed to be any of the other rangers as well due to the fact they’re not black. To take this a step further using Bobby’s view, I technically could not be Black Ranger if the character had not been black. I find it ironic that Bobby would accept a white character playing a ranger who turned into a superhero with black skin that represented the armor of the suit.
We should have solved this issue in the lunchroom where everyone discussed what they were going to do at recess. This is where my friends and I plus other kids (including Bobby) talked about what adventures we were going to make up. We did this mainly when we were going to play Power Rangers. The process was like this; we agreed on who was going to be a Power Ranger, then because no one wanted to be Yellow or Pink Ranger we always came up with new colors so we could always have Five Rangers. Pink and yellow were considered girl colors and in kindergarten girls had cooties. Whoever was left would just be a bad guy or some supporting character.
We always ate fast so we could get more recess time and the teachers would always make sure that we ate all or most of our food before we could go play. It was around this time I announced I was going to be Red Ranger. This is where Bobby came in and interjected, saying I could not be the Red Ranger. To be fair some kids did not want me to be Red Ranger because they thought some of my ideas were stupid in regards to the planning of the adventures. But Bobby was the main mouth piece who strongly objected. On the way out to the playground all we did was debate over why I could not be Red Ranger. This debating was diminishing our recess time and everyone was getting mad because we had great ideas for today’s adventure.
In the lunchroom my skin color was not brought up as a reason why I could not be Red Ranger. All Bobby kept saying was I had to be Black Ranger. When we finally were going to play this is when I shot my hand up and announced again I was going to be Red Ranger. During some point in the bickering Bobby must have informed some of the kids why I should not be Red Ranger because he finally announced it aloud and some kids agreed. “Your skin is not white it’s dark like Black Ranger” said Bobby. I said he was stupid along with the rest of the kids that were on his side. My friends of course were on my side and we started insulting each other until someone called me a butt licker and that pushed me over the edge. I grabbed a handful of sand and let those who were not with me have it.
Throwing sand was a big no-no which explains why no one else was throwing it. We heard the infamous whistle, which pretty much meant someone was in deep trouble. That someone was me and this is when the teacher asked what was going on. We explained and the teacher explained that skin color of a person does not dictate who can pretend to be them. I was banished to the wall for throwing sand and I remained there for the rest of the rest of recess. It was a big waste of time because we did not get to do any of the planned adventures. I would say the two factors that escalated this situation were the lunchroom and the name calling. The lunchroom served as a controlled area. There were teachers around so we were not going to be too loud and disrespectful. Outside of the lunchroom we were able to get away with insulting each other to the point I started throwing sand. The whistle which is symbolic of a teacher is the thing that put order back into a situation that was out of hand.
I think after this incident we stopped playing Power Rangers and started playing Lava Monster on the playground equipment. My parents had nothing to say about this because I never mentioned this to them or anyone else before now. I would not say it heavily bothered me but it bothered me enough to remember the situation and keep asking myself why it came about.
The Red Ranger incident I feel was a test to examine what I have been taught so far from my parents and just from interacting with the world. Parents and adults usually tell children you can be anything you want in life. Bobby challenged that idea by making me think twice about it. If I can be and do any think I want in life, why can’t I pretend to be a fictional character that fights crime? Truth is I can be whatever I want but the key is there are going to be obstacles that will detour one from realizing this. The import thing is I also challenge Bobby’s thought process. I can only hope that he walked a thinking maybe it does not matter what skin color one has.
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