SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2014       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Mark Antony (pseudonym)

Blacks vs. Mexicans vs. Me

Growing up as an African American male, there were challenges, misunderstandings, and experiences that I wasn’t able to comprehend at a young age. Many of them surrounded that fact that I was black, and male. These things happened at school, during sports events, and even at home. One event in particular that has greatly impacted me, occurred when I was a young teen.

As I moved on to middle school and high school, I started to see the dynamics of race, and gender change within the classroom. African Americans and Latinos outweigh other races in the schools I went to. Naturally I started to hang out with more kids of those races. I noticed a distinct difference in the way I acted, compared to some of the other African American kids, males in particular, and I could tell they noticed as well. I didn’t talk the same, walk the same, wear the same clothes, or live in the same area. They called me out on things like this, “White Washed, Bitch, Pussy, and Not black” were common insults thrown at my ears. In middle school there seemed to be a lot of fights involving “Blacks vs. Mexicans.” They would always take place after school in the nearest park, but I never involved myself in them. An African American kid once asked me on the day of a fight if I was going to fight along side the other African American kids. When I replied, “No”, he looked me dead in the eyes and called me a “Pussy for not sticking up for my boys.” This is when I realized that somehow I didn’t resonate with the other Black kids at my school.

During middle school lunchtime, birds were singing, lunch trays were dropped, people were yelling, and laughing, and bells were ringing. Since there were two split lunches for the younger and older kids, the teachers in classrooms nearest the courtyard always had to close their windows and doors just to be heard inside.

            At lunch everyone had their specific group they would sit in. Groups were usually defined by one’s race, and hobbies. Whites, Blacks, Mexicans, Special Education, Baseball players, Basketball Players, and Football Players, for the most part were all separated. The sports players all sat in the same area, but still separated in their specific sports section. I always sat in the sports section in between the baseball and basketball kids.  The Blacks and Mexicans were always on complete opposite sides of the courtyard.

The Black and Mexicans kids never got along at my school. They bothered me every day. Finally the other black kids and I were going to meet them in the park next to the school so we could fight them. There were a few in particular I wanted to fight, so I thought this fight would be a great opportunity for me. We were going to need as many black kids as possible on our side so we could out number the Mexicans. Any one who said that they weren’t going to fight, was going to get beat up too. The way I saw it, you’re either with us, or against us. All the black kids better be prepared to fight after school, we needed to stick together.  My goal was to recruit as many Black people I could, so they could help us.

During lunch I walked up to a few of the black kids, girls and boys, asking if they were going to join us in fighting the Mexicans.  There were some people I expected to say no because I knew they didn’t care for fighting, and there were also people who I expected to say yes. Jay was one of those people who I expected to say yes. When I walked up to him, I figured it was a waste of time to even ask if he was going to be there to back us up, but I did anyway. When he replied “no,” I just looked at him in shock. I was disappointed, disgusted, and mad. I stared right at Jay and called him out in front of everyone. “You’re a pussy, for not sticking up for your boys.” I didn’t understand. The way I saw it, this was a golden opportunity. Jay is Black, he should have been fighting with us. It wasn’t just about fighting the Mexicans, it was about representing us as Black people.

Looking back at my personal incident there are a few reasons why it could be so significant, memorable, and important to me. The things that were being negotiated at the time of the incident were, what it meant to be male, what it meant to be black, and even what it meant to be black in regards to having other races around me.

            My personal incident happened when I didn’t partake in the after school fight against the Mexican kids. A black student asked me if I was going to fight and I replied no. He then looked at me and called me a degrading name. The first thing I had to negotiate was my race. Is this what “being black” means? Does it mean that when other black people fight, I have to fight as well, even though it has nothing to do with me? Looking through history I understand why it may have been surprising or shocking that I wasn’t going to fight with the other black kids. Blacks and Mexicans have not been able to exist together without trouble or conflict. For example, the race riots occurring in Los Angeles in 1965 as well as 1992,when Blacks, Mexicans, and other races resolved their issues through violence. Historically it seems black people have had to fight for much of what they have. Even today nothing is truly given to black people in contrast to some white people. This incident gave me a feeling that has always stuck with me, that somehow, I may not be recognized as “truly black.” I am “White washed,” and not like them. The same feeling stuck with me through high school, and I concluded that I am not “black enough” for the black kids, and obviously not “white enough” to be acknowledged as a white kid.

            This incident also made me question what it meant to be male. Being called a “Pussy,” in its actual connotation, I was being called a body part of a woman, but that is not what the boy meant. The boy was using the term as a degrading term, saying that I was being less of a man. Is fighting how a man solves his issues? Was I being less of a man by not fighting? Again these questions lingered in my head and stuck and still get replayed from time to time, but now in a different context. If my friends get drunk at a bar and get into a fight with strangers, do I fight with them, or do I try to break them apart?

            Lastly, this incident brought the question to me about my race versus other races. Do Blacks and Mexicans always fight? Should I affiliate myself with Mexican kids? After the fight would I still continue being friends with the Mexican kids? I remember for weeks after the fight, I was trying to figure out all of the questions in my head. It created dissonance within me for a long time, but I took it as life lesson and tried to build off of it.

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