“What’s the most significant secret you’ve ever kept? Did the truth ever come out?”
If I told you that, I’d probably have to kill you. That’s the point of a secret, right? Well here ya go Super Jan I am directly responding to your prompt; DEEP BREATH!
Well my secret is that I have never really felt comfortable around large crowds of black people…and Yes I am black! I know it sounds weird, but as welcoming as they are I would be in a room of faceless diverse people who do not know me. That is my element. Strangely, if they are a room of black people that are my family it’s actually even worse. And yes, of course I have told people, my friends, and random people and one my sisters who feels the same way, lol.
I know many people but many people do not know me as well as they think they do. I have people who only know part of me. People who have grown up with me and only know that I am ‘from the suburbs’ and that is it. Then I have people who have known me and know that I have family ‘from the hood’ which apparently makes me hood. It means I have the right to come to the hood as long as I know the rules.
The hood goes by many names, the ghetto, the projects, the inner city, and so on. But it’s not always that bad. It can be considered the hood just because it is not AS nice as the mansions around the corner. It’s all about perspective. However, the true term comes from the shortened word neighborhood. As there are more neighborhoods in cities and you will not see this as much once you go further into the rural/ countryside areas.
I have lived 85% of my life in the suburbs with intermittent spurts in the hood and 3.5 years in a ‘hoodish’ apartment complex while in undergrad (though it didn’t seem that way to me). I learned that I can seamlessly convert back and forth between bad grammar, slang, and curse words, and proper English with no problem. My sister marveled at this, LOL. I mean I could sound very country and and in the next sound like a business person. She told me that I truly sounded like 2 different people. She said she has yet to master this. I told her it’s like acting, except I just picked it up as a sort of survival tactic as I was constantly being picked on by friends and wanted to fit in.
See I found that I was not HOOD enough for my black friends and not PROPER enough for my white friends. it was a conundrum. I hated feeling left out. I was the weird kid who did not fit in. I wanted to be around family gathering but I did not like loud obnoxiousness that were some of my cousins or HUGE crowds but you have no choice in my family there are a TON of us. I felt more ridiculed though by people of my own kind than by any other race or culture though. So that actually made me decide to go to a predominantly white college instead of a historically black college like some people I knew.
The rules of the hood are to know people that are there. Everyone is family. If they got you got and vis a vis. Don’t be fancy, (unless it’s tax time), LOL. Everyone knows everyone’s business, so if you want to know, go here it’s better than the internet. And if you are hungry, need to buy ANYTHING, need a babysitter, or just need to talk to anyone you can find it here. See the hood still operates mainly on the ‘African Culture’s’ of villages and taking care of your own, but it’s flawed with corrupt ideals like greed, sex, lies, and ignorance. Many cut down the outside world and what they do not know and shun those who are different. I went through this all my life until I find it too hard to associate with it. I now only go there to visit people and then get the heck out of dodge. Tired of feeling like a outsider.
I will not pretend like the suburbs are better. What with the dreams of being better and moving on up. People are so quick to judge the downtrodden and believe that are less than what they are because of where they live or what they have. However, they still gave me less crap about my background. White people unintentionally and indirectly made me feel bad by not being involved in some of the things they were such as trips to cancun for spring break in high school, sleep overs, make-up/ hair parties, and birthday parties I missed. I mean I guess it was not all their fault since I was l busy kid with appointments, sports events, music classes, academic events, and so on, but the questions never seemed to stop. They would ask why I ate certain things, or why my parents did not come to certain things, or why I went to therapy and so on. They were more inquisitive.
Whereas my interactions with many (not all black people) were about my appearance. Why my hair looked the way it did, why I dressed the way I did, why I talked that way, where I lived, and so on. It was odd, invasive, and then they decided your fate based on it. Did they like you or not and would you be the subject of their affection or hate forever because of it. I was not mean to anyone growing up really so I never really had enemies but some just did not associate with me because I was not ‘cool’ enough based on how I looked, dressed, or where I lived for the black kids. It sucked. Strangely enough as we have gotten older for some they have grown wiser and this has changed and some have grown more foolish and their lives have gotten progressively worse or stayed they same while the rest of us have flourished and moved on and they are still worried about the same things.
I do enjoy going to the hood and knowing I have that sense of family but it is exhausting like going to a non-stop entertaining event (a club or party) where you are constantly putting on or having fun. It’s not my natural environment so I am never truly relaxed. My siblings do not get that about me when I visit them. It’s like going on vacation, you are amped to go are constantly ON because it is not home with all the comforts of home. You cannot fully ‘rest’. And just like some vacations you need a vacation after you return from vacation no matter how great, just 1-2 days to decompress and relax. I feel like that after going there. I need a few hours to just relax. It’s so live and people are always moving and buzzing, and there is always noise and traffic, and kids, and…and…and…
In the suburbs, this is my home, I can rest, it is quiet, I am familiar with this. I can fully rest. People nod and keep moving. Everyone may not know everyone but they are usually cordial. My husband hates getting stares but I have to remind him it is his ‘hood’ mentality, it’s what you put out. If you grimace at people they grimace back. Smile and keep moving. Not to mention people in general feel less threatened by women than men, especially men in lunky boots and dirty landscaping clothing and toboggans, LOL. I would stare at you too, but he only focuses on the white people staring at him because that is what we mainly live around. I assure him, a black person would stare too. He has to be mindful of what his body language says to people, I see him and it screams I might cut ya, rob ya, or punch ya on whim so beware. That is not his way at all, but that is not what his body language says when he is grimacing just getting off work, tired, sore, dirty, and hungry with all the dark winter wool clothes on. I’m just saying.
For me I personally do not feel comfortable in the hood. I easily get assimilated when I go but the jokes never stop with family or friends…I ignore them to an extent and give them back to them, but obviously they leave their mark. I’m so assimilated though I have even been pulled by the cops several times leaving the area late at night. Something I never thought I would experience until I moved back home from undergrad.
However, when I am in the suburbs, I have never dealt with this issue. I feel at home and jokes are always about silly things I have done that were very much warranted. Things that I could help. Things that were not personal attacks on who I am, where I come from, or how I manage my money to be where I am at today. I have struggled the same as they have in the hood. I still do sometimes. The difference is that I do not choice to stay in that mindset or situation. I do something about it, and surround myself with positive like-minded individuals. I have dealt with the issues of the hood many times over including abuse, neglect, and hunger and may of them early on in life so for people to say I do not understand because I live in the suburbs…you are judging based on where you see me now but not where I have come from.
I remember the apartments I lived in while in the hood when I was a toddler. I remember the whole layout. I was only 2 and I remember everything about it because I had traumatic events there. They say this happens to children. When traumatic things happen you tend to remember things in your life from that point and beyond that most normal people would not because it is ‘highlighted’ if you will. I also remember my mom’s youngest sister living downstairs. I remember being in our next apartment with my mom’s aunt in the second grade a few blocks away.
In undergrad, my ‘hoodish’ apartment never really felt hood. It had more black people than I was accustomed but it was quiet and people were nice. No one was out in the street being loud (though they were known to be out late talking late 2-4 in the morning–as i would come/go to work I would see this), people minded their business, and when/ if you made friends I did not feel like I was under interrogation or extreme scrutiny. I have since gone back to the area and the place has gone down hill, looks run down, and dirty. I have also been told that criminal activity has increased in this area. But again it was not like this when I lived there. It actually, gave me renewed hope in black people.
I will conclude this by saying that, maybe you may look at me as strange for struggling to identify with black people as a black person myself. But it is not that I do not identify with with them, it is just that I would rather identify with many cultures. It’s also that I would rather be open to understanding and compassion and not shun someone because of where they come from or how they respond to things. People grow by being taught through nurturing hands and minds. Though this is still my goal everywhere I go (not just in the ‘hood’ as some outreach charity event) I hope to inspire not to be culture shocked. Allow others to be themselves so that there is no ‘hood’ mentality vs. suburban mentality. I have always been divided between the two. Having to be both. One day I would like to just be myself all the time and not feel like some crazy diplomat.