Excerpt for White Nigger: The Struggles and Triumphs Growing up Bi-Racial in America by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

White Nigger

The Struggles and Triumphs Growing Up

Bi-Racial in America



Jason C. Bost, JD, MBA



The author has attempted to recreate conversations, events, locations and occurrences from memory as well as interviews with various individuals. While every attempt at accuracy has been made, some names, places, descriptions and other details may have been changed to protect the identities of some individuals.


Additional Contributing Editors: Elizabeth Martin, Chichi Ofoma & Robin Evenden

Legal Advisor: Chinyere “Chichi” Ofoma, Esq.

Book Cover Artwork idea: Jason C. Bost, Sr., and Michael “Script” Brown

Book Cover Artwork by Michael “Script” Brown

Book Cover Artwork Copyright © 2017 Jason C. Bost, Sr., Bost Media, LLC.

Copyright © 2017 Jason C. Bost, Sr., Bost Media LLC

All rights reserved.

E-Book edition

ISBN-10: 0-9991945-0-X

ISBN-13: 978-0-9991945-0-8


DEDICATION



To Mom, for all your unyielding strength and guidance. There is no question that everything positive in my character came directly from you. Grandma, rest in peace and thank you for showing me the true power in gentleness. Grandpa, for laying the foundation for our future generations. To my children for giving me the strength to remain positive and keep focused on our future. I love you all from yesterday until forever

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Part I

1. SELF-AWARENESS

2. EARLY YEARS

3. COUNTRY LIVING

4. ROCHESTER

5. HIP HOP

6. THE LAST STRAW

7. WILSON HIGH/THURSTON ROAD

8. KARMA

PART II

9. COCAINE

10. A SON IS BORN

11. THE FALLS

12. JOSEPH & CUBA PLACE

13. SQUARE LIFE

14. BACK IN THE GAME

15. WALLS

16. ANOMIE

17. DOWNWARD SPIRALS

PART III

18. CLEANSING

19. CHICKENS COMING HOME

20. “THEY KILLED MY BABY”

21. CONTRADICTIONS

22. MORTEM

23. NEW BEGINNINGS

24. MARRIED LIFE

25. BACK TO SCHOOL

26. LAW SCHOOL

27. REDEMPTION





PART I



People don't realize how a man's whole life can be changed by one book.”

_ Malcolm X



1 SELF AWARENESS



The birth of my younger sister Nicole was significant for two main reasons; first, it ended my life as an only child and secondly, it introduced me to the concept of racial differences. A few weeks after my sister’s birth, my mother visited my school and brought Nicole with her. I was excited beyond belief and couldn’t wait to introduce my entire class to my brand new baby sister. I was glowing with pride, and I made sure every one of my classmates stood up so that they could get a better view of her, as I smiled uncontrollably the entire time. I was a big brother and felt like the entire world needed to know.

Later that day, while walking home from school, my best friend Antonio Plecebo told me that Jimmy, one of our classmates, called my baby sister a Nigger. I had absolutely no idea what the word Nigger meant but for some reason, it infuriated me. I did not identify the word with anything related to race, all I knew was that it sounded like Jimmy was trying to disrespect my sister, my brand new baby sister, and there was no way in hell I was going to let that fly, so I headed straight to Jimmy’s house so that I could whip his ass!

Sherman Avenue was a small street and our rented house was one of a few very small, single-family houses on my end of the block. Jimmy lived in a trailer located in the trailer park at the other end of the block. Walking past my house on my way to Jimmy’s trailer I stopped inside to drop off my book bag, kiss my sister and tell my mother that I would be back.

When I left my house there was a small crowd of kids gathered outside in anticipation of the fight that they somehow heard was about to take place. This was way before cell phones and text messages, so the rumor of the fight had to travel from mouth-to-mouth in the 10 minutes or so that it took us to walk home from school. As everyone followed me down to Jimmy’s house, the crowd, growing in eagerness, began to talk louder and walk faster and I could feel my heart starting to pound in my chest.

I didn’t need the crowd to hype me up because I was already pissed off but their energy definitely provoked more of my anger, so by the time I got to Jimmy's house I headed straight for his door and kicked it as opposed to knocking, to make sure he knew I was mad. His mother came to the door, looked at the crowd and saw the anger on my face and immediately knew that I was there to fight her son. She said, “I’m not sending Jimmy out there with all you boys. If ya’ll are gonna fight, ya’ll gonna fight him fair.” She made no attempt to understand what was going on or to sit us down and work out the problem, this was how things were handled in our neighborhood and she knew this.

I picked up a rock and told her that if she didn’t send him out I was going to throw it through her window. Instead of snatching my little ass up and putting me in my place or marching me right up the street and telling my mother what I threatened to do, Jimmy’s mother sent Jimmy out to face me. As soon as he walked out of his door I kicked him with all the force I had, square in his balls and he dropped to his knees, with the wind completely knocked out of him and a look of shock on his face.

Before he could even think about moving I punched him two or three times in his face and kicked him in his stomach as I could feel the rage inside of me growing more intense. I looked up when I heard his mother say “you dirty little mother fucker, I told you to fight fair.” Without hesitating, I threw the rock I was holding and attempted to hit her with it, instead missing and hitting their front door. Stunned, she closed the door but continued to watch from the open screen.

Jimmy was trying to catch his breath and was starting to moan when I stood over him and started screaming, “my sister ain’t a Nigger, you’re a Nigger” as I hit and punched and kicked him.

At some point his mother came outside of their trailer and grabbed me, moving me off of Jimmy while I swung and cussed and threatened to punch her. By this time Jimmy was crying and had blood gushing from his nose and from a cut on his forehead. She picked him up and they both went into their trailer. I was furious that she stopped me from exacting revenge for Jimmy’s disrespect, so I threw another rock at their door, cussing and yelling for Jimmy to come back outside. Antonio and a few of my other friends grabbed me and dragged me down towards my house. The rest of the crowd was silent, stunned at what they had just witnessed and I was still throwing rocks and cussing the entire way home.

This was the first time that I can remember “blacking out”, completely losing self-control when anger and raw emotion took over and filled me with pure rage. And this was the first time that my mother talked to me about race and tried to explain that I was not white like she was or white like the rest of my family was or white like most of my friends. This was the first time anyone told me that I was black, or at least that the world would consider me as being black. I refused to listen to what she was trying to say to me not because black was offensive to me, I had no idea what being black meant, but offensive because it meant I was different.

How could I be different? Why would she say this to me and why say it now, right after I spent my afternoon beating the shit out of a kid for calling my sister a Nigger. How could that term really apply to my sister, to me, to anyone I knew? My stepfather attempted to explain it to me but this only made me angrier and less receptive as I had already developed a strong dislike for him in the few years that he had been in our lives. I guess I’ve always been stubborn, extremely stubborn, and accepting what they were trying to tell me would mean that I was different than my friends and more importantly to me, different than my mother, the woman that raised and loved me and the woman that I loved more than anything.

For the first time in my life, staring back at me in the mirror was someone different than I had always seen. This was the day that I learned that the word Nigger had some sort of attachment to me and my sister and this made me even more angry at Jimmy. Soon after, I was beating him up every day on the way to school or after school if he avoided me in the mornings. Every time I hit him I would hear that word echoing in my head “Nigger” and my anger would intensify.




















2 EARLY YEARS



I was born to a 21-year-old unwed white mother and an African American father. Interracial relationships were still somewhat uncommon in 1970, in fact just seven years before my birth, in the historic case of Loving v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court finally held that anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional. Until the Loving case, most of the states had laws that either prohibited and invalidated interracial marriages or made the marriage between a black and a white person a punishable crime. Even in the relatively few states that did not have any legislative barriers to interracial marriages, the social stigma and challenges related to mixed relationships could be overwhelming and frequently led to confrontation or physical violence.

To further put the racial climate of this country in perspective, the world was still reeling from the assassination of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. which occurred in 1968, just two years before I was born. The US government, headed by President Richard Nixon, was fighting a war in Vietnam as well as waging a war against its black citizens right here on U.S. soil. The U.S. government utilized publicly funded programs such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO, to specifically target and disrupt various political organizations deemed to be a threat to the government.

Under the direction of J. Edgar Hoover, black political organizations became the number one target of COINTELPRO, and the program’s goals of discrediting and completely destroying these organizations were made clear to the public. This was all during the same political rule that saw good-ole President Nixon almost impeached for his involvement in the Watergate scandal. Nixon and Hoover’s roles in the intentional violation of the civil and human rights of black citizens would not be completely understood or accepted until many years later. The war in Vietnam was ongoing and America was experiencing inflation rates that were triple the rates of the previous decade. The “Free Love” and Hippie movements from the 1960’s were dying out and America was beginning to get its first real taste of the effects of long-term poverty on urban communities. Racial inequalities were exposed and highlighted throughout the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and now the US was forced to deal with open racial wounds and growing dissent from both black and white impoverished communities.

I entered this racially and economically divided country as we all do, totally innocent and clueless about race or hate or the state of U.S. politics. As any child, I understood the basics, I knew that my mother and grandparents loved me and I had no idea that I was any different than any of them until I was introduced to the word “Nigger.” Jimmy’s use of the word “Nigger” made me aware for the first time in my life, that the world I lived in was made up of groups of perceived inferior and superior people.

Unlike the rest of my peers, friends and family, I didn’t belong to any of these clearly defined racial groups; I was not white enough to be considered white and I was not black enough to be fully accepted as black. I was something in between and I would slowly and painfully learn that I would neither be recognized by white society nor would I be easily accepted by black society. I was an outsider always looking in at those that “belonged”. Thus my struggle for acceptance began.

My mother was born a few miles outside of Elmira in a small, somewhat rural community. She was the third youngest of five siblings born to my grandparents. My grandfather worked as a postal worker, delivering mail on a rural route which he worked for more than 30 years while my grandmother worked and took care of home and the kids. Their relationship was what most would consider to have been traditional for that time, and although they were not well off, they made sure their five kids ate every day, had clothes for school and were still able to save a little bit of money along the way.

The town my mother grew up in was composed of other similarly situated, working, middle class white families. She went to school through the 1950’s and 1960’s and, although racially segregated schools were commonplace in most of the United States, she attended schools that were open to blacks. This was prior to any desegregation busing so the absences of blacks in her community meant the absence of blacks in her schools as well.

By my mother’s accounts, my grandparents were somewhat progressive for the time, believing that all people were equal and should be treated equal under the law but more importantly for them, should be treated equal as people and provided with the same support and opportunities made accessible to all the whites in their community. My grandparents’ ideology about race and equality were certainly not considered normal for the times, in fact in today’s world they would probably be labeled as extreme liberals, which is ironic as to this day, my grandfather is a staunch supporter of the Republican party and most of their principles and ideologies. My grandparent’s views had an obvious influence on my mother which was probably a contributing factor to her being involved in an inter-racial relationship, leading to my eventual existence.


*****

Patrick was my best childhood friend since the age of three. More like a brother than a friend, he lived on the other side of town in Elmira in a section of the city filled with double and single-family rental houses and a few low-income housing projects. The majority of Elmira’s black families, including his, lived in his neighborhood making it much more racially diverse than my own.

My mother worked as a nurse at the Elmira Psych Center, requiring her to work long shifts on the weekends as well as some overnights, so I ended up spending many of my weekends at Patrick’s house. We would wake up extra early on Saturdays so we could watch the Saturday morning cartoons. I loved Fat Albert, the Jetsons and the Land of the Lost, but my absolute favorite was the Super Friends and the Justice League. When they came out with Super Friends Underoos underwear that had the design and color of the various Super Friends characters on them, I begged my mother for a pair of Aqua Man Underoos! You couldn’t tell me that I was not Aqua man, I would wear those underwear every day and I remember quite a few times getting in trouble for jumping in the tub with my Underoos on because I was determined to “swim like Aqua Man!”

Saturday mornings at Patrick’s house provided me with my first real introduction to black culture, black music and the black fashion scene. Patrick had two sisters that were eight or nine years older than us, both of whom were very much into the whole fashion and music scene of the time. I never really gave much thought about Patrick’s family being black, I never looked at them any differently than myself and they never treated me any differently. My comprehension of the differences between their household and my own didn’t materialize until I was introduced to black television.

Patrick’s sisters ensured that Saturday afternoons were reserved exclusively for Soul Train. Patrick and I would have control of the television all morning, until Soul Train came on, then they would grab a pair of pliers to change the dial on the old TV and wait, eagerly anticipating the start of the show. Every episode would start with a cartoon image of a train bopping to this bass-heavy, funky theme music and then the host, Mr. Don Cornelius, would say in his soulful deep voice, “Soul Train, the Hippest trip in America. Sixty non-stop minutes across the tracks of your mind into the exciting world of Soul.” Then he would introduce the guest artists on that particular show and always add “along with the Soul Train dancers”. The show’s introduction was immediately followed by commercials which were always targeted directly at the black audiences, including ones featuring black hair care products such as Afro-Sheen, or a McDonald’s ad featuring a black family portrayed by black actors. I didn’t understand marketing at the time but I clearly remember Patrick’s sisters having many of those hair products sitting on their dressers and in their bathroom.

The Soul-Train dancers were composed of mostly black dancers, with a few white, Asian and Latin dancers sprinkled in here and there, and they would perform the newest dances while wearing the latest fashions. Male and female dancers wore massive Afros that were meticulously picked and combed into perfectly round shapes, complementing their shiny silk shirts with huge collars, and skin tight polyester bell bottom pants, accompanied by ridiculously high platform shoes. Don Cornelius would always introduce the latest soul and funk records and Patrick’s sisters, Reese and Celia, would get up and imitate the latest dances and scream every time one of their favorite groups or singers would begin to perform, all while they both picked their own Afros and talked about which dancers had the best outfits.

Soul Train introduced me to groups like Con-Funk-Shun, and singers like Minnie Riperton, and David Ruffin, while the dancers would do dances like “the Hustle” and “the Bump.” I was captivated with the music. While Patrick would usually go off to his room or head outside to play, I would remain in the living room, glued to the television, secretly listening to everything his sisters said, absorbing all the latest slang and watching them try to master the new dance crazes.

Music has always been a huge part of my life, partially because my mother was a huge music fan. Through her vinyl records and 8-Tracks, I was introduced to the Isley Brothers, Earth, Wind and Fire, Kool and the Gang and the Average White Band as well as many of the popular non-soul artists of the day such as John Denver, Linda Ronstadt, Carol King, the Eagles and Barry Manilow. I would often spend hours just going through my mother’s albums and listening to them while studying the artwork on their covers and trying to imagine what the artists singing the songs would look like if they were performing that song right there.

There was something about the energy and passion that Patrick’s sisters danced with and something about the soulfulness of the music itself that kept me fascinated and ensured that every Saturday afternoon was spent studying Soul Train, studying the black faces moving in unison to the rhythms of the music and studying Reese and Celia’s responses to each song. This was the first time that I can remember paying attention to black culture and trying to absorb and incorporate it into myself. I couldn’t explain why I felt drawn to it, I just knew that for some reason it felt right, it felt like that was where I was somehow supposed to be. I never experienced feeling out of place on those Saturday mornings, I always felt comfortable and like I belonged. Looking back through eyes that have experienced decades of feeling like an outsider, just the thought of those mornings relaxes me and makes me appreciate the beauty and calmness of life’s simpler times.

When I wasn’t with Patrick on the weekends I was usually with my maternal grandparents. While my weekends with Patrick would lead to plenty of boyhood mischief and introduce me to black culture, my time with my grandparents reinforced my familiarity to the social norms associated with my family and white American culture. My grandfather was a huge fan of two television shows: The Lawrence Welk Show and Hee-Haw. Hee-Haw used bales of hay and a farm setting as a backdrop while the cast members, usually dressed in overalls and wearing straw hats, would sing country songs and crack jokes. Roy Clark was the host of the show and Minnie Pearl became famous for wearing these big country church hats with the price tag still on them. As much as I enjoyed Soul Train, I also enjoyed Hee-Haw, probably because I saw how much my grandfather enjoyed it and it was an opportunity for us to watch the show together while sharing Planters roasted peanuts and one of those old school glass bottles of Pepsi.

The time with my grandparents taught me the norms and socially acceptable patterns associated with white culture in America, but I never understood it to be a lesson in Americana, I just enjoyed my grandparents and the security and safety associated with being in their home. My grandparents were very typical for their generation, hard-working, middle class people that believed in spending quality time with their family. Their neighborhood was typical for the time, middle class, all white, neat and clean with nicely manicured lawns and neighbors that all knew each other and took the time to walk across the street to speak to one another daily. I do not recall any other people of color in their neighborhood but at the time it was never really an issue for me. I loved my time with them, their house was warm and loving and I can’t remember very many times, if any, in which I was unhappy there.


*****


It was not uncommon for five or six-year-old kids to spend all day outside playing during the summer time or on the weekends, with very little to no parental supervision. We knew the rules, be home before the street lights came on, don’t go to the Parker’s house because their father was always drunk and almost burnt the house down twice because he fell asleep while cooking; don’t talk to strangers; stay on our block and don’t ride your bike in the street. We would break every single rule almost every single day except for the street light rule. There was no defense to breaking that rule, that one was clear cut, be home or risk facing the consequences. The other rules were easy to break because they were not visible to our parents and they would never know unless someone reported us or someone got hurt.

Unfortunately for us, someone was almost always there to catch us and someone was always there to tell our parents about whatever mischief we managed to get into! Our neighborhood was full of parents that knew other parents and older folks that acted as if they hated kids like us and loved to get us in trouble so it was not uncommon for our parents to get a phone call from a neighbor if they spotted us doing something we had no business doing. Shit, depending on who the neighbor was, we might even get our ass whipped by them first and then have to deal with more punishment from our parents when we got home. The neighborhood watched and policed itself and everyone knew what the rules were, everyone knew that you were supposed to respect the adults and that any adult in the neighborhood had the right to tear your ass up if you misbehaved. And trust me, many of us fell victim to this type of “community policing” so we were all always aware that eyes were everywhere.

Kids being kids, that never stopped us from doing things we had no business doing. Once, while on the four-block walk home from school, I passed a group of older kids throwing rocks at the windows of an abandoned house. My other friends kept walking and encouraged me to do the same but I was fascinated by the way the windows would shatter when someone succeeded in throwing a rock with perfect accuracy through one of the windows. I stopped and watched for a few minutes before I finally got up the nerve to pick up a rock and throw one myself.

My very first toss was a success, the large picture window overseeing the front porch shattered and glass flew everywhere. Even the older kids were impressed! For a minute, I felt like I was the man, until I noticed Mrs. Burns looking out of her screen door staring directly at me. It seemed like everyone noticed her at the exact same time so we all scattered, running in different directions as we headed towards our respective homes.

Mrs. Burns called Tina, my best friend Antonio’s mother, immediately after seeing me throw the rock, so within two minutes of my triumphant rock toss through that huge window, and the very second I rounded the corner onto my street, Tina came charging out of her house with a belt in hand and headed straight for me. I looked behind me thinking that she was after Antonio, or his older brother Chris, but by the time I realized she was coming for me it was too late, she had the belt raised above her head and it was already on its way down, headed straight for my back. “Whack, whack, whack,” I couldn’t even say a single word before she hit me three more solid times across my legs and backside.

By the time I gathered my senses and my instincts told me to run she had already hit me at least two or three more times, knocking my Spiderman lunchbox from my hand and spilling a half-eaten sandwich and chocolate milk from my thermos all over the middle of the street. I left that lunchbox right there and hauled ass towards home with Tina in hot pursuit, cursing at me the entire time yelling, “You little bastard, you want to break windows? I will break your ass!” I knew the only chance I had to escape Tina and that belt was to find a place to hide so I zigzagged through the neighbor’s backyard and headed straight for the fort we built on the side of the doghouse in my backyard.

I stayed in that fort until it was dark, not coming out until I heard my mother calling my name. When I finally emerged she ran towards me and picked me up giving me a huge hug and, wiping away her tears, asked me why I scared everyone like that. Apparently after Tina was unable to find me, she had to call my mother at work. My mother’s fear that something might have happened to me saved me from getting any additional punishment; she was so happy that I was safe that the window-breaking incident was not even discussed.

That was how things went in my neighborhood, at any given time any one of our neighbors might catch us fucking up and provide us with a whipping right there on the spot, no questions asked, no worry about what our parent’s might say, they would efficiently and unapologetically administer corporal punishment. Because of this “community parenting” approach, our neighborhood was virtually free from the crimes that plague many communities inhabited by younger kids and it was rare that any of us got into any serious trouble. The community took responsibility for its own and everyone contributed to raising the children. It was a literal example of the African proverb that “It takes a village to raise a child,” and it worked. We were certainly not angels but we respected our elders and were raised with a sense of community that is now virtually impossible to find anywhere in this country.

With that much supervision you would think that we would never be able to find enough freedom to get into any trouble, but boys will be boys and trouble seemed to have a way of finding us. As the weather would get warmer we would always manage to venture further and further away from our street and into new and unfamiliar neighborhoods. The opposite end of my street ran directly into a busy main road that contained a plaza which had a supermarket, McDonalds and a few other small shops. We were strictly forbidden from crossing that road, or going anywhere near it, so of course we spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out ways to cross the road without getting caught by anyone in the neighborhood or getting run over by one of the cars as they sped past. Accidents did happen, one of the older kids that lived in the trailer park at the end of my street was hit and killed by a car trying to cross that road on his bike and our mothers would remind us of that any time they caught a whiff of us acting like we might try to venture across it. For young boys with adventure and mischief running through their blood, that street separated us from freedom and independence, so crossing that road became our number one mission in life.

I can’t remember the first time we successfully crossed over into the plaza by ourselves but I certainly recall our attempts to terrorize the McDonald’s drive through as well as our raids on the P&C supermarket. We would roll up to the drive-thru window on our bicycles making a sound like a car engine until someone would say, “Welcome to McDonalds, can I take your order?” then one of us would try to deepen our six and seven-year-old voices and say, “ah yes I’d like a fart sandwich and an order of shit!” We would all laugh hysterically and haul ass out of there before anyone could catch us, but one day the manager who had grown tired of our games, snuck up behind us and grabbed me and Antonio by our shirts before we could peddle away. He yelled at us and threatened to beat our little asses and we yelled right back at him, kicking and swinging at him until he finally let us go.

That was the first time I can recall feeling the power and sense of security that comes with being with a group of my boys. The more of us that were together, the more courageous we would become, almost as if we were invincible. I would have never attempted that drive-thru stunt by myself and certainly would have been scared out of my mind if the manager grabbed me when I was all alone, but being in a group gave us all courage, made all of us feel that much more tough and probably made the manager realize that he was going to have to back up his words with actions because we were going to stand our ground until he let us go or took things further. This feeling of power generated from hanging with my boys would repeat itself throughout my childhood and into my teen years and would be the catalyst to much of my early troubles.

Those trips to the other side of that busy road also led to my first experience with the police. Four or five of us would head into the P&C Supermarket and steal anything and everything we could get our little hands on. Usually just candy and snacks but eventually we started to follow the lead of the older kids and snatch cigarettes and chewing tobacco. This was before the days of placing the cigarettes behind the counter, they were still accessible and within our reach and anything within our reach was fair game as far as we were concerned.

One day, after we had gotten particularly bold with our thievery, we hatched a plan that involved me distracting the cashier by asking some random questions while Antonio and another friend grabbed some cigarettes and candy. We all waited in line and then when the customer in front of me finished paying for her groceries, I walked to the front of the cashier’s line so that my friends would be behind her back. As I rambled off a bunch of questions and gave her my most charming smile, Antonio started stuffing his pockets full of Snickers Bars, M&M’s and my personal favorite, Zotz. (Zotz were hard candies that had this powder inside of them that would fizzle in your mouth when you bit into them. I haven’t had one in over 30 years and my mouth still waters just thinking about them!)

Antonio also grabbed a few packs of unfiltered Camel cigarettes, which would become our brand of choice, and just as he was reaching for another pack, the man standing in line behind him grabbed him by his collar. Antonio’s first reaction was to take a swing at the man but before he could, the man grabbed Antonio’s other hand and lifted him off the ground. That is when we realized that he wasn’t some random customer standing in line with his groceries, he was store security and he yelled for all of us to stop. Our other friends took off running but I just froze, looking confused as my heart raced so fast that I was positive you could see it beating through my thick winter coat.

The man took us to a room at the back of the store and began to ask us our names, addresses, phone numbers and our parent’s names. Neither of us would give him any information besides our own names; I’m sure we were both envisioning the ass whipping we would receive if our parents found out we crossed that street and even worse, were caught stealing. The security guard said he was calling the police and picked up the phone but we both thought he was just bluffing. We had seen Antonio’s mother do the same thing hundreds of times; whenever we would do something she felt was deserving of a good ass whipping, she would always threaten to call the police first, then put the phone down and reach for the belt.

We sat there for what seemed like forever before a police officer walked into the room. My heart jumped into my throat and I thought I was going to pass out. We knew we were in deep shit then! Antonio started crying uncontrollably and immediately started emptying out his pockets and saying in between deep sobs, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do it.” The officer stood there staring at us menacingly with his hand on his gun before he finally sat down next to us and asked Antonio to calm down so he could talk to us. The only thing that I remember him saying was, “Ok, I am going to let you go this time but next time I’m going to call your parents and you are going straight to jail. Do you understand me?”

Both of us sat up straight and said “Yes sir, we won’t do it again.” I had never felt so relieved in my life! As the security guard walked us through the store and to the front door, he said, “If I see either of you little bastards in this store you are going to jail. Now take your little assess home.” We walked away from the store fast with our heads down, not saying a word and waited until we were sure that no one from the store was still looking, then we both hauled ass home, running as fast as we could.


*****


All of my earliest memories involve my mother or my maternal grandparents; my father was an inactive participant in my life from the age of two or three, so I have no memories of him at all. I saw pictures of him that my mother kept for me, one in particular that I would look at most frequently was my father and I carving a Halloween pumpkin together. I must have been 2 or 3 years old in the picture. My father, a dark skinned large man, had this medium size afro and was wearing a white shirt with a big collar on it, typical of the style in the early 1970’s. I was wearing my pajamas and we were both smiling. Looking at that picture always made me feel that we enjoyed being together as we both looked content and comfortable in each other’s company.

That picture was really all I had of my father so most of my early thoughts of him came directly from that picture or from conversations that I would sometimes overhear between my grandparents and my mother. My mother never spoke badly of my father in front of me and I am sure that is why, despite him not being in my life at all, I harbor no ill feelings towards him to this day.

I can’t recall ever asking my mother about my father but I do remember my grandfather sitting me down one day and asking me what I thought about the man my mother had been dating. I was about four or five years old at the time and I didn’t know what to say to my grandfather; I wanted to tell him that I didn’t like my mother’s new “friend,” but I couldn’t articulate why I was feeling that way, I only knew that I didn’t like him, so I just stared at my grandfather and shrugged my shoulders as if I was indifferent. People tend to discount children and what they feel, in part because children lack the ability to effectively express their feelings and often their feelings manifest themselves in crying or acting out. My inability to express my dislike for my stepfather led to my simple shoulder shrug but my grandfather must have sensed something because he said, “Well I don’t like him one bit. Your mother thinks you need a role model that you can relate to but he is not the role model for you.”


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