So here’s the deal.
Let’s say you grow up in an inner city area AND out in the boondocks.
Let’s say your mama’s dead and your daddy don’t care ‘bout you all that much.
Let’s say you somewhat pretty but also smart. Let’s say you even got Hillbilly blood somewhere back in you. And let’s say your daddy Jewish and the nice white folk in your small town, they don’t like that too much.
You kin be like this.
You kin be like me.
So you get you some scholarship to college and it a nice college, too. You do three years, you work fulltime plus carry a double major and you pay your bills. Your suitemate, you see she go with her Daddy on the weekends out on their yacht. You not invited.
Your Mama, she die of cancer when you a baby. She work one year for Disney, quit with Mexican guy who was her friend because both of them, they weren’t wanted there. They went to work for other upscale, hip studios — your Mama, she made Mr. Magoo for studio and won Oscars for them too, for Gerald Mc Boing-Boing. Her Mexican friend, Mr. Melendez, he end up making all the Peanuts cartoons for rich white man nice guy Charles Schulz. Your mama died and Mr. Schulz, he wrote this letter.
But they took her money, they took her name, they took EVERYTHING.
Let’s say you get all the way through that nice college, you work fulltime, you keep up your grades only, it be hard for white trash, you know … you keep up those grades and you listen to your teachers and do what they say.
You write things that mean something to you. Poetry, little things like stories. You write a poem about a girl who has an abortion but feels awful about it. She sad the baby is gone. It didn’t happen but you were scared it might. You write about where you grew up. Things you knew, maybe heard from the older folk telling you. And you get a prize one year. You win over boys, and win over the bigger, higher rated college nearby.
You do it again. You win it again.
The man who gives you the prize, he is very well-liked in this place. He is a young, handsome professor — he has a “Named Chair” — that means important. His father is an important man. He is a doctor, head of the American Cancer Society. His mother is a very beautiful, gracious woman. She wears pearls.
So you begin to follow this man and go to dances and parties with him and other students from the other, better, more respected college nearby.
And he pays for you on one of these occasions because you are poor and live from paycheck to paycheck.
And then a week later, you get paid.
You go to pay him back, like you promised, like you were taught.
And he hits you in the back of the head with a glass ashtray and rapes you. You don’t remember most of it because you were thank the Lord, out cold.
You wake up and see his cold, dead eyes. You think “He is going to kill me. I will die.” You look over your shoulder at the fig tree in his back yard. The expensive nice college has paid for this house for him. He is a famous, well-regarded young professor with a great background.
You recall: when you grew up, before your grandfather died, the only decent man you ever knew, the man who gave you everything you have, he had planted such a tree in your back yard. The fig tree. You look at it and pray to Jesus Christ to accept your soul.
So, he does some more drugs. And when he turns, his face is different. He is bored. He takes the tubing from your wrists and he throws your torn clothes at you.
“GET OUT!” he screams. And you do.
Because he’s not going to kill you.
Many years later you realize, he didn’t just do this because you were blonde white trash with no family that cared, and he knew he could get away with it.
He did it because you won the writing prize two years in a row.
And he didn’t like that. His favorites didn’t win it. The contest …
was judged blind.
Then many years later, you read Naomi Wolf’s article in New York Magazine about Harold Bloom, the famous Yale literature professor and father of the “literary canon” putting his heavy boneless hand on her thigh and how that changed and apparently, ruined her life.
Such a thrill.
So, my sisters of color there are some white people who can understand a little bit of what you say. Some of them never questioned a word about what happens when driving while black, shopping while black or the difference in going to court while black vs. going while white (unless #whitetrashexception). Some of them never questioned why black kids would get sent home from school three times as often.
White men look for young white women like me same as cops look for black people and homophobes look for young gay men to beat. I come from four generations of single mothers and through either death, disease or douchebag, not a single man except my grandfather, the finest man I ever knew, made it through this process to raise a single one of us children so far back as I know. It was MY privilege to contribute until I decided no more.
It’s called violence, greed, cruelty and exploitation. And all who do not fight back, pay this price no matter what their gender and their color.