Monday, August 08, 2005

A little raw anger takes me to the Fort Worth ISD, circa 1980

I know I'm near the time of my monthly when I have an urgent need to anathemize something that normally doesn't even cross my mind. Tonight, I can't stop thinking about the middle school I attended, way the hell across Fort Worth.

My sistah Gini Goddamn over at Mascorrolandia grew up across the highway from me, and the shit we could dish about being bussed across town in a half-assed attempt at desegregation would make the good Dr. King roll his eyes and sigh.
Was it enlightening, in any way, to haul us naiive, middle class suburban kids out to the 'Hood? Did it bring the white children and the black children together to hold hands and sing Kumbaya while the rainbow of brotherly love beamed o'er our heads?

Fuck no. The schoolboard didn't bother to think they'd actually have to address the racial tension situation in the classroom, or encourage socialization in any way. All they had to do was fulfill the mandate of desegregation, put out fires when they flared, and try desperately to cover up the dropout rate.

I don't know when or where I acquired the following factoid, nor do I know how acurate it may be, but I remember being told that the ratio of black kids to white kids at William James Middle School was 35:1. Always made perfect sense to me; when I walked into my homeroom on the first day of school, I was the only non-African American child. I remember thinking: they must be trying to teach us what it's like to be in the minority. That couldn't possibly have been the FWISD's goal; that would have taken too much thought.

I soon learned that homeroom and the hall was to be the only place where I'd see my black schoolmates. The classes were obviously drawn up by race. All the attention was lavished on the white kids. We were told to keep to ourselves. What was the point of desegregation if the message was still this: the only way to keep us all quiet was to keep us apart?

The tension was not only between kids. The racial mistrust was extended to teachers, staff members, and for me particularly, the drivers of the busses. Here was my first taste:

By the sixth grade, I was quite fond of Star Wars. Alright, I was fucking obsessed with Star Wars. One fine morning, on the bus ride to Wm. James Hellhole, I was happily doodling the insignia of the Intergalactic Rebel Forces on a sheet of notebook paper. I must have dropped this little masterpiece, because a week or so later, I received a photocopy of it, along with a letter to my parents, in a manilla business envelope handed to me by the bus driver. "You need to give this to your parents, child," she said. When I opened it and saw the aforementioned contents, I was very confused. The letter said something about the supervisors of the FWISD bus depot being concerned that "your child's drawing is consistent with racist insignias".

Oh yeah. Sixth grade. And I'm all up in the fucking Klan.

I was mortified. I cried my eyes out, and I went to school everyday in terror of retribution. My mother took up for me with the principal, explaining that Star Wars hadn't a thing to do with white supremacy. But it didn't matter to the bus driver, who always glared at me afterwards.

Ms. Goddamn and I could tell a million stories about this shit.

I'm mad about it not because I was shipped to school in a predominantly black neighborhood, but because there was no guidance, for any of the students, on integrating across racial and social lines. It was as though we were all supposed to just get along. None of us came out of that with a better understanding of the other set. We just all served our time there and got the hell out.

Oh, and in case anyone's thinking of pointing out that, hey, African Americans suffered intolerance for years, et cetera: please stop now. I know this. I'm talking about a school system that let us all down by not preparing themselves or us to understand the reality of racial and social tension.

What's funny about writing this blog entry is that I feel really uneasy with it. I was in the middle of a sentence about my mother taking me out of the public school system after this, and deleted it. Wrote it again, deleted it. My internal editor fears that including my migration to private school will make me sound like a priviledged suburbanite, whining about having to spend time with the lesser classes.

The subject is worth exploring, because I've always been pissed off about it.

Help me out here, Miss Goddamn....