The Maori (indigenous people of NZ) call themselves black, which is interesting to me.
"If they filled out a form," I said to myself, "they would definitely have to check off "Pacific Islander" or something, not "Black"." I learned this while talking to a black (Maori) woman last night who told me she had a sixteen-year-old son who's always getting into trouble with the police.
"They just bother him because he's black," she said. I'd already told her where I was from, and I could tell she felt the need to clarify her use of the word. "You know what I mean. It's tough being black in a white society."
"Hm," I said.
I admit that it must be hard to be a minority. I, of course, will never know this, because I am a white male who is very good-looking.1
Despite the inherent difficulty in being born with colored skin in a white society, I still find it hard to justify the kind of lamenting the woman was doing about her son. My sympathies for people who talk of being targeted by authority because of their race are always in conflict with my belief in personal responsibility and accountability for one's actions.
I'm always especially turned off by blaming race for poor social status when I think of one ethnicity that has been persecuted just as much as Hispanics or Blacks, but has still somehow managed to consistently succeed: Asians.
Not just like "ching-chong", but Asians like "people from Asia." That is, dot-head Indians (but not bow-and-arrow Indians), Ragheads, Japs, and Slants of all kinds.
I grew up in kind of a melting pot neighborhood. My bus to middle school had Indians, Asians, White, Black, and Hispanic kids on it. The kids who got the most shit and who were the least popular were by far the Indian kids, or the "Ghandis" as they were called. They got made fun of, beaten up, and were excluded from social activity at the hands of every other group, especially the whites (preps, kickers, or headbangers), blacks (gangsters), and hispanics (gangsters).
Know what those Indian kids are doing now? They're working as accountants, engineers, and technicians. Know what Doran and Fabian and DeShawn are doing now? Smoking pot in their mom's kitchen.
I know, I know. It's a larger social problem that exceeds experiences in middle school. I believe those experiences are indicative of the larger picture that does exist all over the world, and makes me wonder if it actually is
a cultural dilemma, and not simply one of societal pressures.
There was a Chinese kid called Woo that I vaguely recall from third grade. He transferred to our class in the middle of the year, and he barely spoke any English, but damn could that kid do math. He was at least two or three levels above everyone else, doing difficult long division problems while we were still learning our multiplication tables. Gabe, this kid in my class whose shirt I eventually ripped and whose head I eventually shoved into a metal bar after he kept picking on me, would try to trick Woo while he was doing addition flashcards. Every once in awhile he would throw in a multiplication card, in the hopes that Woo would miss it and get one wrong. He never did.
"How the hell does he know?" we all wondered. "Must be something about being Chinese."
Eventually I asked the Maori woman if her son actually did anything
to provoke attention from the police, besides just being black.
"He's a smart aleck, and he's got a little mouth on him, but that's it."
She then launched into a story about how he was wrongly accused of stealing a car, and how difficult it was for her to deal with it, because she had to wake up in the middle of the night and had just gotten home from working a long shift at the bar.
"Did he steal the car?" I asked.
"No! They just thought he did!"
"Why would they think he was stealing a car if he wasn't?"
was stealing it, he wasn't. He was just there, and the police accused him of it, and he got in more trouble because he mouthed off to them."
Ah, the sweet naïveté of a mother's love.1I guess I could find out what it's like to be a minority if I went to some kind of crazy backwards land, where whites are minorities and hot snow falls up, but that's just crazy talk.