I was moved by a post on the ramblings where the blogger reminisced about growing up in a family of five children. Two of the children were adopted by her parents, and it was only when she got older and people began to ask questions, did she pay any attention to the fact that her sisters were black, since she, and the rest of the family members, was Caucasian.
Having grown up on a Caribbean island where black people are in the majority, I’ve never felt out of place where I live. I did attend a school that even now I hear people refer to as “the white people school”, and while we were aware that they differed in colour, the blood that oozed from their cuts looked the same as mine. So when I attended university in New York, it was the first time that I was ever in the minority, and I realized that race was a very important issue.
Looking back on my time there, I have to say that I came away with my self-esteem intact and I never felt as if I was a “minority” although I clearly was. As a university student, I sought to get involved, and out of the many groups and organizations on campus to choose from, I decided to visit the Association of Caribbean Students, looking for people with whom I would have something in common.
And as we say locally, common asked me, “What are you looking for?”
While I did meet someone who was from my island, and we tried to form a bond via geography, there was a disconnect. She told me about her relatives, but I had no clue who her “people” were. Maybe she got a few of the names wrong, which is understandable, because she left home a long time ago. Eventually though, I came to the conclusion that the Caribbean Association was so-named because their grandparents had passed by the West Indies on their way to America.
For some reason I had an unfavourable preconception about fraternities and sororities, so joining one didn’t appeal to me. I don’t know how many of the ladies would have travelled to the “islands” to form that circle around me when I got married, anyway. The Black Student Union also didn’t make my list of places to visit while there. So my extra-curricular activities consisted of choir and band.
But I considered myself an equal opportunity friend, so I didn’t confine my interactions to only the people who looked like me. Because in such a multi-cultural city, it would be impossible not to call people of Indian, Italian and Irish descent your friends.
I did, however, want to experience how black Americans lived and played, so I visited the homes of some of my classmates and went to probably one party in four years! Laugh if you want to but my momma sent me there to study, not to fete.
I will say that all the people that I met took the opportunity of receiving an education very seriously, knowing that it was key to getting a good job. Their idea of partying however, differed markedly from mine, because most West Indians go to dance – not to drink.
Twenty years after I graduated and came back home, I’m still in the majority where I live. My son attends a school where most of the kids look like him and he tells me that he’s only ever had one Caucasian friend. Apparently the others didn’t make the cut.
Kids learn by example, so it’s up to me to provide one. That means that I’m going to need to get me some more friends of the Caucasian persuasion.