I’m from Philly—Northeast Philadelphia, actually. My cousin lived in West Philly— another country, really. We had block parties and social clubs and peg pants. They had turf and gangs and bad attitudes. I had to pass the Catholic school on my way to public school every day—to and from. You had to watch your step.
My father, just back from WWII, thought I was growing up too fast. At least that was his excuse for moving us to Richmond, Virginia, to ten acres of dirt surrounded by bigots in every direction. “Where y’all from?” they asked in their slack jaw way, like I was from Mars, maybe; I sounded like a “Yankee” – whatever that meant. For a couple of years, it meant fights at the school bus stop or in the field behind Glen Allen High. I earned my school “letters” for running track—the only sensible sport for a Yankee in the Capitol of the Confederacy. Damn, do they hold grudges!
So, I fled all that southern hospitality and joined the army when I turned 17. There was a war on – “Police Action” they called it. In boot camp, they had a separate barracks next to ours for dark skinned soldiers. New war, same old battle for some people.
“Where you from?” they asked when I moved to Bloomfield Hills. I just wanted to say, “down the street.” To some people, you were either born where they were, or you’re a foreigner. Well, either that, or a Democrat.
California is a bit different—almost everyone here is a “foreigner.” Ah, but we’ll find something different about you we can hate. You’re either too young, or too old. It’s okay if you’re rich—but you can’t be poor! If you’re from South of the Border, well … how long have you been here?
And how did you get here? “Was your mother a member of the DAR,” a woman in Richmond asked me just before she asked, “You are a Christian, aren’t you?”
I think being different makes you interesting. If you have a sense of humor, we could be friends. It’s amazing to me that bigots don’t get bored with each other.
Jac Flanders is the author of “What I Learned On The Way Down,” eBook and paperback versions from Amazon.com.