Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Hour Later, Saturday

"I’m going to feel fine, Mama. I’m going to look that son-of-a-bitch in the eyes and say –- and say, All right, Mr. Lindner –– that’s your neighborhood out there! You got the right to keep it like you want! You got the right to have it like you want! Just write the check and – the house is yours." Walter almost lost any kind of respect for the black race when he stated he was going to let Mr. Lindner "keep his neighborhood right" by keeping our black family out. He almost lost everything, and when I mean everything, I mean the last bit of respect our family had for Walter.

Mama made the right decision when she grabbed Travis during the sell-out, stating "Travis, you stay right here. And you make him understand what you doing, Walter Lee. You teach him good. Like Willy Harris taught you. You show where our five generations done come to." I know that Walter could not falter so hard in front of his own son, especially when he wants his son to be bigger and better than him one day. Walter became a man when he told Mr. Lindner we did not want his money, and we wanted our house. Walter found his identity in that moment. He even said he was proud of me for becoming a doctor. Walter finally realized that black people need to stand for themselves, and that black women such as myself can achieve greatness just like black or white men can. His eyes are opening to see how I see, and how all black people should see. Walter's pride for his race finally beats his need to break poverty and become big. Maybe assimilation gives black people money, but it never earns honest respect.

Even Ruth is willing to fight, keep her baby, and work for what we deserve. Walter is willing to give up his dreams of becoming big to work for what we deserve. As for me, I wish to do the same, but fight in a different way for the same thing.

"That was what one person could do for another, fix him up – sew up the problem, make him all right again. That was the most marvelous thing in the world…I wanted to do that. I always thought it was the one concrete thing in the world that a human being could do. Fix up the sick, you know – and make them whole again. This was truly being God…I wanted to cure. It used to be so important to me. I wanted to cure. It used to matter. I used to care. I mean about people and how their bodies hurt…" Becoming a doctor could offer so much not only for myself, but for others.

However, I might throw that idea out the window to chase a different kind of dream...

I realized tonight how little of my identity I am sure of when Asagai asked me to join him to where I once came...

"Nigeria. Home. I will show you our mountains and our stars; and give you cool drinks from gourds and teach you the old songs and the ways of our people – and, in time, we will pretend that –– you have only been away for a day. Say that you’ll come".

Am I really meant for America? Could I be better with people all like myself? Or should I break America's racism and become great in the country I was born in? Which is the right thing to do?

If I was worried about my own identity, I know that I am from Africa. If I was worried about black identity in America, I would stay and fight. Is it better to be who I was from race-wise, or who I was from when it comes to where I was born? I feel that I need to at least give Africa a chance before I can figure out who I really am...

Saturday, A Week Later

Moving day had made my weekend a little brighter at first, as well as the fact that it looks as if Ruth and Walter are getting along better. Ruth told me, "Lord, that man – don’t changed so ‘round here. You know – you know what we did last night? Me and Walter Lee?… We went to the movies." For once, those two got along well enough to be a semi-normal couple. After that comment, I got into teasing with the family. Walter then claimed that all I was interested in was race. Maybe it's because the rest of the family is so content with racial issues that I am so stuck on them. As they just accept the racial stereotypes, I fight back. I'd rather harp on racial issues than settle on them. The best example is when then Mr. Lindner came, and all racial issues became clear even for them...

I was surprised my family stood by me on the same page through the buy-out, especially Walter. Maybe Ruth claiming Walter and I actually have something in common was right. She stated, "You and your brother seem to have that as a philosophy of life". Maybe we both want things big, but I want them big and equal and he just doesn't care how he makes it big.

However, I still do not see how Walter could ever make it big with the decisions he makes. My heart sunk today when I heard Walter state, "Gone, what you mean Willy is gone? Gone where? You mean he went by himself. You mean he went off to Springfield by himself – to take care of getting the license – "

His part of the money. My part of the money. Gone. Hopes, dreams, shattered. But when Mama began to beat Walter, even I could not let the beating continue. No matter how dumb of a choice he made, a good black woman needs to look after her family. My heart is shattered, and I do not see how a future where I can continue my efforts can live on.

If I cannot become a doctor and fulfill myself as the woman I had intended to be, then who shall I become? How can I reshape my identity this far down the road when I had everything so planned out?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Friday Night, a Few Weeks Later

George did exactly what I said I'd leave him for. The man got offended that I did not feel like kissing in my house, and stated that although I'm good-looking, he wants "a nice, simple, sophisticated girl...not a poet (96). So apparently, I'm no good unless I put out a little more like the simple girls-- the girls who have nothing special about them. Well, he picked the wrong girl. I might be sophisticated, but I am not simple!

I asked him why he was so angry about who I am, and he stated that it doesn't matter what I think, or that I say what I think, "because the world will go on thinking what it thinks regardless" (pg 97). The nerve! So it's best that I simply accept my "place" in America as a black woman? No! I asked him why bother going to school, and his answer is basically just to make money! I told him to get out. No man is going to sum up the importance of education simply to money. That's like saying a woman is good only for her abilities to produce babies. Education can do so much more than produce money, and I for sure can do so much better with a man who can see me as more than just the identity of a "black woman" America thrusts upon me!

The rest of the night played off as quite annoying as well, but at least there was some good in it.

For once, Mama agreed with me that George is a fool. I was so glad that Mama could see things from my perspective. My great mood from my mother's kindness was ruined by the Johnsons, but quickly lifted again by her powerful words. The Johnsons always have to gossip and stir up trouble-- but I saw a part of me in my Mama again when she disagreed with them! Mrs. Johnson was insulting my attitude, stating it came from too much education. The women even had the nerve to quote Booker T. Washington, stating "education has spoiled a many good plow hand" (pg 103). My Mama then stated that Booker T. Washington was a fool!

How ironic! I saw in that moment a flash of George as Booker himself! George is a fool, and Booker is a fool. Both want to ruin black culture by assimilating. Mama might be a little too stuck in the previous generation on her ways of thinking, but she knows that a black person shouldn't limit themselves by ignoring education so they do not 'ruin themselves'. Absurd!

I swear, if I cannot escape the racism in America from the whites AS WELL AS the blacks towards blacks, I might just get the guts to leave it all behind. I want a place where our culture is the culture, and where we can accept others for who they are, and prosper because of our culture, not despite it.

Later That Day Saturday

I finally tried on the robes Asagai gave me, and love them. I feel so powerful and independent! Walter, as usual, spoiled the moment in his drunken state. Something tells me that his luck isn't going to change if he doesn't get his act together. But, while he was drunk, I decided to have a little fun with it. I messed around with him for awhile, riling him up so he'd shout in a complete stupor-- but when George came, I decided it was time to act a bit more refined.

However, George and the rest of the family didn't find it so refined of me to have cut my hair and have it unstraightened so it looked "nappy". George stated I looked "eccentric", where I stated I look "natural", and he stated that is what eccentric means! (pg 80). The nerve of him! He wants to be defined as an assimilated product of America. He would rather paint his soul white and follow their ways to blend in, but not me. I want MY heritage to shine, not the WHITE OPPRESSIVE heritage. Maybe becoming "white" has its perks like it has for George, but I have more respect for my people than that. I even told the man "I hate assimilationist Negros!" (pg 81), and he thought I was calling him from a college perspective an "Uncle Tom" (pg 81). Yes, that's true. He is an Uncle Tom. He will made no headway for our people. We deserve to be who we are and be accepted, not crush our culture to mesh with theirs!

As I got ready for George, regardless that he kept disrespecting my views on Africa and African heritage, I heard Walter and George arguing. Honestly, I hope Walter took some of what George said to heart. Maybe then Walter will get this whole "liquor store" out of his head, but somehow I doubt that will occur.

I swear, if George acts smart with me again, I won't ever go out with him. My identity is with Africa, and with my education I will assure myself a wonderful position in this world with who I am, not who others what us blacks in America to be.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Saturday Morning

Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. And yet our house still looks and feels outdated. I feel that a lot of my weekend times are spent cleaning. Either way, it distracted the family from fighting for about 5 minutes, which was quite the relief! There was a lot of tension about the check coming in-- Walter and his business talk on the phone made Mama especially watchful. He talked on the phone "as privately as possible under Mama's gaze" (pg 54), but we all heard him say he's waiting on the check that isn't his.

Mama promises the check to go towards my college, and then of course towards other things. If he ever took Mama's rightful money and distributed it unevenly out of his selfishness, my entire future would be ruined.

It's funny how my Mama likes to keep herself 'in her place' and others like to keep themselves 'in their place' when she knows nothing about her own heritage and how they keep themselves 'in place'. When talking about Asagai, my African friend, Mama stated "I don't think I've ever met no African before" (pg 57), which just seems quite ignorant since it's all of our original heritage. Our identity has been so lost in oppression that she doesn't even see Africans as one of our kind! It just goes to show what a lack of education does to people. She calls them "heathens"...well, Africans ARE who WE are, same blood and everything. I guess she just glosses over the fact that they are the black people just like ourselves, and just believes they are somehow different than us.

In another unexpected event...

Ruth's pregnancy could not come at a worse time. No money, and her husband is trying a wonderfully destructive scheme to create a liquor store. Well, I never thought she had much brains-- I had the nerve to ask her, "Did you mean to?" (pg 59). Maybe that seems a little disrespectful, but if she had any brains the woman would not have allowed herself to get pregnant under such circumstances! I overheard she is contemplating killing the child, which in my mind is her own business at this point. Thankfully, I was saved by all this drama when my authentically-black friend came over!

I was so happy when Asagai came. I was tired of the "ghetto-itis" (pg 60) surrounding the entire household this morning. I was completely lost from the ghetto world as soon as I opened his present-- Nigerian robes! How lovely! I so wish to be more like the identity of my fellow African roots than the ghetto roots within America. They are so much sophisticated, filled with a beautiful culture rather than such a run down one.

As Asagai remembers, I was searching for my "identity" (pg 62), and although he still teases me about it, I feel I find it more and more within his culture than within the culture of my family. However, not even Asagai thinks I'm quite authentic enough: he thinks straightening my hair is "assimilating" (pg 63) myself with white folk. I hardly think so. Just because white folk have straight hair doesn't mean I straighten mine to look like them-- straight hair is just so much easier to manage! Sure, maybe it LOOKS more white, but my INTENTIONS are not to blend in. He's a sweet, smart man, but he teases too much, and wishes I'd be his American fling. Even though he states "it's American of me to say such a thing" against his proposition, I am not going to change my word just because he claims it "assimilates". My identity does not involve flinging, but does involve self-respect.

I am "Alaiyo", and this woman does not change herself for any one but herself.

Friday Morning

Things seem absolutely mundane to me nowadays. As our house is old and worn, ("Our furnishings are typical and undistinguished...and they are tired") (p 23) I feel old and worn of this house and the lifestyle surrounded by this house. Life has gone on, but this house hasn't-- the furnishings and everything are stale, and I'm a part of modern life, not the life the house still surrounds itself with.

Every morning, I hear Ruth get her little family ready for breakfast. I still cannot believe that a woman of thirty could have a son at the age of eleven-- if I ever were to get pregnant, or let alone married by such an age, I would be missing out on so much life has to offer, even with blatant white oppression. By God, I'm 20! With Ruth, it's apparent that "life has been little that she expected", and I wish to make it more than ever expected. Her and Walter fuss almost every morning, too-- this time over Walter and his friends...and a million other little unimportant snip-its, later including her son. I don't wish to be worn and tired at thirty like her, but proud.

I overheard Ruth say, "There are colored men who do things", and Walter replied, "No thanks to the colored woman" (pg 34).

Sure, times have changed. Ever since the second world war, things have been much different. Women began working more, especially with the absence of men. But what about black women? As Walter stated, and as many white and colored men state, black women are not the ones to be recognized, or even of any help to their male counterparts. They are last. As tragedy strikes, new opportunities seem to fly open for a young black woman such as myself, but they have to be fought for harder than even a white woman.

I've definitely had to distinguish myself hard to be where I am today. When I say opportunities have arisen, I mean opportunities for people like me who have to push harder than the majority of America's population. Majority, of course, being the whites. I deserve my current opportunities, for a black woman such as myself rarely finds such an outlet even with the changes in time.

By distinguish, I must add that I've had to drop the dialect of even my family members I live with. I speak "...a mixture of many has permeated [my] sense of English" (pg 35). I cannot even be fully black to be an educated black woman-- I have to, in a sense, drop my initial identity and mesh it with the white community's dialect. That might seem like too much of a loss to bear, but I am giving myself an opportunity by changing. My family sure doesn't like it-- well, especially Walter. He mocks me for wanting to be a doctor, even stating "Ain't many girls who decide to be a doctor" (pg 36). Just like this old nasty house, Walter is stuck with old nasty stereotypes. I feel that for many black people, they cannot change their identity and allow even themselves to move up in positions that were previously banned to them...

Sometimes I break, like I did today, saying "forgive me for wanting to be anything at all", shouting over and over again "forgive me" at the top of my lungs (pg 37). I cannot tell if Walter is jealous or uncomfortable with my position in life at college, but either way I do not feel I should actually have to apologize for wanting to become something more than what he expects from his life.

If I didn't have Mama, I don't think I'd be anywhere in life. All the criticisms from my brother only mark the small peak of the reactions I can feel from others because of the position I am taking. My Mama is so sweet-- I get so frustrated with her, but the woman is so caring. Her ideals and everything do not match with mine, but her heart is truly full of goodness even though she drives me crazy with her tyrannical ways. She always wants us to eat-- me, Ruth, gets annoying, especially with her old customs of "no cold breakfast" when it comes to winter (pg 40). But she's given all that she has to keep this family together, and is helping me through school. She might be a bit of that 'perfect black woman' I am trying to avoid, but she's so great at heart-- she calls us "working people" (pg 42), incapable of business, but I know it's just the way she was raised.

"Aint nobody tryin' to stop you" (pg 47), says Mama, and yet it seems everyone has to fuss about my many ambitions in life...can't even get them off my case for the fact I don't want to marry a snobbishly-rich black man...neither Mama nor God has any kind of power over my decisions. Mama's ideas are her own, and God himself is an idea. I'm not going to let the idea of God, which gives my mother her own ideas, force me into losing my place. I identify myself as a strong black woman reaching for more than a modern black woman normally strives for, and I'm especially not going to let the household of black people living in the PAST ruin my POSTMODERN ideas.