WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Excerpt #3

One of my coping mechanisms for when I get stressed out due to my Asperger’s tendencies: Looking at nature scenery like this…

 

Just like I did for the first two chapters of the book I’ve been working on, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, Which I still plan on (self) publishing by the end of this year, here’s an excerpt from Chapter Three, called “The Bullied Life: We Were Just Playing”:

 

I will always recall – not at all fondly – the moment when Marlon (not his real name – if you grew up with me in Santa Monica, CA you can probably figure out who he is) first started to torment me. It’s a cliché of course, but it was as if it was yesterday instead of forty years ago…

I was in the fourth grade and had just started Will Rogers Elementary School, being among a most ethically diverse group of kids, rainbow-like in that all colors were represented after having exactly one black classmate (she was in my first grade class) during the previous four years that I went to school in Riverside combined.

It was around mid-morning when it happened:

My class, room 404, was outside on he playground with another fourth grade class, milling about on the blackish-gray asphalt in the cool, gray overcast weather that Santa Monica is famous for, waiting for P.E. class to start.

I was just standing there in line with the other nine-year olds when all of a sudden I felt this hard, sharp punch on my arm. I turned around to see who had hit me and here he was, this cocky kid with a big, toothy, arrogant-looking grin, posing like Joe Frazier with his fists up saying “Come on!”, looking like a wolf who had just spotted his prey and was getting ready for a possible meal.

It’s obvious from the perspective of a middle-aged guy that Marlon, in the grand tradition of inner city African-American youth, was “testing” me to see how tough I was, a requirement for social survival among that crowd.

Unfortunately to a nine-year old aspie, it was not so obvious to me what was going on – at all.

I had absolutely no clue whatsoever about how one needs to have a certain toughness or “hard” factor to be respected in the “hood”; I was a weirdo on the Autism Spectrum Disorder from the country, what the hell did I know about needing to fight (among other things) in order to be seen by the other black kids as “cool” as up until that time, about 99.99% of the youngsters of African descent that I knew were cousins, and even there I felt there was a culture clash as I was a rural kid with cows and feral cats as pets, playing in open spaces and hearing roosters crow in the morning, while pretty much all of my cousins were city kids from L.A.

When you put all of those factors together, I suppose it was inevitable that I would be a target to Marlon.

That little punch that Marlon gave me that morning would greatly pale in comparison to what would happen two years later in the sixth grade, the reason being that great Satan and I would be in the same class, room 502, and his unadulterated evilness would result in grade six being the worst year of  my pre-teen life as to say it was nine and a half months of hell would be an understatement.

To be fair, Marlon wasn’t the only kid in that class putting me through such nastiness that year; I’d estimate that roughly a quarter of the class, maybe a little more than that, including many of the boys, either did something or said something to me that made me feel bad in some way. One boy –  not black (to show that it wasn’t just an African-American thing) – who was harassing me said, when I asked him what I did to make him be so mean, forcefully answered, “You came to this school!”, as well as warning me to not go to John Adams, the junior high school across the street, near the end of the year.

Actually, I should have known that my social life at Will Rogers wouldn’t be great the first month I was there…

It was yet another cool and overcast morning: I was walking to the playground and was just about to step onto the wide open part of the asphalt when about eight boys bum-rushed me and , in my mind, were bugging the hell out of me, tugging at me and pulling on my shirt sleeves as it felt like I was being attacked by an invading army.

It was all a blur; as far as I was concerned I was being attacked by strangers for no reason when I just wanted to be left alone…which was why I threw a mini-temper tantrum, commencing to push one or two of those kids away and taking off running afterwards, those kids yelling “get him!” as they intended to jump me and try to beat me up. I ran to a teacher and ended up hiding in a classroom until recess was over.

I specifically recall one time when the teacher had me, Marlon, and another boy in the hallway outside the classroom door because of some shitty thing that he and that other boy did to me in class. When confronted, I’ll never forget what Marlon told her:

“We were just playing.”

This is a commonly used phrase for bullies when taken to task for their evil deeds, the teacher then telling Marlon and the other boy to leave me alone.

Needless to say, it didn’t work.

 

COMING NEXT MONTH:

Excerpts from chapter four of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, called “The Black Alienation”, which describes my struggles with being accepted by my fellow African-Americans, particularly in the low to lower-middle income neighborhood I spent much of my childhood in, and my trouble with completely adapting to black social youth culture after spending my early childhood years almost exclusively among whites.

 

This reminds me of what I went through during my preteen years, especially in the sixth grade – only I wasn’t a red-headed kid with glasses. Photo courtesy of aceofgeeks.net

 

 

 

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MY PERSONAL RACIAL PROFILING STORY

Thousands of people march around the Justice Department in Washington, Friday, Nov. 16, 2007, during the "March Against Hate Crimes" to protest hate crime issues. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Thousands of people march around the Justice Department in Washington, Friday, Nov. 16, 2007, during the “March Against Hate Crimes” to protest hate crime issues. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) Photo from bailoutpeople.org

 

SINCE THIS RACIST PHENOMENON HAS BEEN PREVALENT IN THE NEWS IN RECENT TIMES, I THOUGHT I WOULD SHARE MY OWN ENCOUNTER WITH NOT BEING TREATED WELL BY LAW ENFORCEMENT SOLELY DUE TO THE COLOR OF MY SKIN

 

Sometime during mid-July, 1997. Santa Monica, CA.

I had just celebrated a milestone birthday –  my 30th – just a few weeks before, as I stepped out of my duplex house in Santa Monica’s Pico Neighborhood, the part of town where African-Americans, Latinos, and the low-income population  of that seaside town have historically resided and continue to do so.

I was on my way to buy a newspaper that late Saturday morning, and had just crossed the street when all of a sudden I heard behind me,

“FREEZE! PUT YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD!”

I turned around and saw a guy in a plain clothes suit, his badge hooked on his belt, his gun pointing straight at me as he asked if I was a stalker named Tony Phillips.

The fact that I had said no didn’t deter him any, as the next thing I knew my hands were cuffed behind my back.

The plain clothes cop then asked me if I had my identification, which I admittedly didn’t have. “If you let me go inside my house, I’ll show you my ID”, I said.

He then led me across the street to my door, then at my request took the handcuffs off of me so I can let myself in to get my wallet from my bedroom.

When I did so and showed the guy what he wanted to see, to what I am forced to admit was his credit he said to me upon realizing that I was not the man he was looking for, he then said to me before he and his partner left,

“OK, we’re sorry.”

That apology, however, did not change the feelings that countless other young black men feel in encounters such as this; like they are seen by policemen, particularly white policemen – of course the guys who handcuffed my and believed I “fit the description” of a stalker were Caucasians of European descent – as nothing but sub-human degenerates and criminals who needed to be controlled by any means.

It wasn’t the first time I was profiled like this as roughly five years before, I was getting some food at my favorite Mexican restaurant a couple of blocks from my home – those from Santa Monica would know the name of the place – a cop in uniform entered the restaurant, stopped me as I was heading out the door with my arms full of tacos, nachos and burritos, and would have arrested me right then and there for “fitting the description” of some criminal if not for another guy across the street shouting, “That’s not him!”, essentially vouching for me.

Being that I had lived in Santa Monica for over twenty years at that point (17 years in one house), and being that I was known as someone who stayed out of trouble, not joining gangs or doing any other degenerate things, I was obviously quite irked over how I was treated in that community due to what I looked like and where I lived, as the Pico Neighborhood is, for all intents and purposes, the “inner city” of Santa Monica.

In fact, in a play on Los Angeles’ more well-known counterpart I have referred to the area as “South Central Santa Monica”; while the gang, crime and poverty issues were and are not as prevalent in the “Pico” as in what’s now referred to as “South L.A.”,  without going into any details such issues were certainly there.

Putting it another way, I was not as sad or nostalgic as I may have been otherwise when my family and I moved away a year and a half later.

While it’s not my intent to badmouth Santa Monica or the Pico Neighborhood, for the reasons I just described and others which I don’t really want to discuss, I just didn’t fit in there.

It was time to go.

As for the racist profiling I endured, I can certainly understand what young African-American men and boys go through across America because of what had happened to me.

Granted, I was never arrested, and mug shots of me do not exist.

And I’m obviously here to write about all of this, unlike so many others who are no longer with us due to police bullets being shot into them.

But I more than sympathize – I want to make that crystal clear.

Sometimes I wonder if encounters and incidents like what happened to Trayvon Martin in Florida, Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and so many other young black males in so many other places, will ever stop.

My honest answer to that, if some one asked me, is…

“I truly don’t know.”

 

 

racial-profiling

An all too common site, tragically speaking, in certain neighborhoods. Photo courtesy of atlantablackstar.com