Late into the evening HANO took me to the French Quarter. He said that I couldn’t come to
Her yell and her smile and her appearance shook me. I had spent the day like an apprentice studying the suffering of black people. I’d listened to the woman with her child in her arms declare she was homeless. I’d seen scores of young black boys in sweaty long white t-shirts aimlessly smoldering in the shade of FEMA trailers all over the city. I’d been to the processing pen for Section 8 returnees and watched depressed looking black people sitting for hours waiting to be processed by government workers. I’d also been through the destroyed wards and seen whole swathes of people’s identities and backgrounds still destroyed, now overgrown with weeds to insult their injuries. I’d listened to a brother explain that he goes to a funeral every couple of weeks because, “the depression is getting to be a little too much for us.” I met the director of one of the homeless shelters who explained that most shelters that accept women and children do not accept men so several men sleep on the streets nearby to be close to their wives and children. I’d watched the soldiers like HANO and Sister hold hands with each other and promise to protect the fragile hope.
Then the white girl, let’s call her Ashley – or Brittany or Kirsten or Molly or Hannah - takes a drink, drops some beads on my head and yells the white girl yell.
I’m not even sure how to continue and explain what that felt like.
It is unfair, if not simply mean, to begrudge people their happiness so I won’t. I struggle; however, to understand this class of white women. Admittedly I don’t know any of them personally, but they appear to be like canaries – whistling and happily chirping along on top of American life.
Having this enigmatic and chipper white girl drop those beads on my head felt like she slapped me. She was chirping from her perch right in line with my stereotypes of her and then she threw the necklace on me to make sure I knew she was up there. It seemed like Ashley lived in a different world, was from a different planet and spoke a different language. Even when I’m happy, I don’t understand that yell.
I hadn’t said anything during all these thoughts. When I looked at HANO he was looking right at me and said, “Breh, if we could take turns on the balcony, we wouldn’t be suffering so much down here.”