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Is There A Difference Between Being A Victim Of Race And Class Warfare?

Updated on May 30, 2011

Is There A Difference Between Being A Victim Of Race and Class Warfare?

I was down at Fort Gordon, Georgia, partaking in my Army Training… learning how to be a Tactical Communications Specialist (36 Kilo)), when I was first called a “nigger.” What made it more grating in retrospect was the fact that I was called so by one of my fellow female soldiers. I remembered that I had just finished watching the movie, “Red Dawn,” and, as I tried to board a taxi to go back to my barracks, the driver wanted me to share the ride with a female soldier, who said that, “she wasn't riding with a nigger.”

I was only in this country for four years and the impact of being called the “N’ word did not have the impact on me it would have had on my African American counterparts. As a matter of fact, I remembered conveying the story to my Black brothers and they wanted to know who had said the “N” word to me. The truth is that even if I could have recognized the female soldier who had called me the ‘N’ word, I would not have told my Black brothers… so as to spare them from getting in trouble and being prematurely booted out of the Army.

Believe it or not, my being called the “N” word then wasn't as hurtful to me as when I suffered the slings and arrows, courtesy of class warfare. I was barely into high-school and it was that time when boys are feasting their eyes on the ladies. It so happened that my ‘world history’ class was viewing a movie and I, along with two of my poor buddies, sat directly behind some of the rich girls. Soon we were joined by the rich jocks who sat with us behind the girls, but unbeknownst to us, apparently, there was some sort of arrangement made between the rich guys and the girls about allowing the former to “cop feels.” During the history movie, my buddies and I watched with envy as the rich boys enjoyed themselves… with their ravenous fingers.

There we were living vicariously off the exploits of the rich boys… when one of my friends tried to join in the fun. The ladies started whispering… then they looked back and delivered the ‘class edict’ about who were allowed to play with their breasts. Every boy with means was allowed to touch the girls, except my fiends and I - I am over forty years old now and it still hurts. Years later, when my grandmother died and I went home to bury her, one of the girls, still disgustingly beautiful, engaged me in conversation and probably did not remember the slight she had done me all those years ago.

Long before the slight by the girls, I had a child-hood experience when Gabby, the local grave digger, died prematurely; this was a man who did every odd job for the village people, yet when he died, there were no outcries and visible sadness like when Colonel Mary, the English man who owned the posh hotel, succumbed. It was then, as a ten-year-old boy, I looked at death with reverence because I realized how equal ‘it’ was: no matter how rich, no matter how sophisticated or whether you are an upstart or a Philistine… the Angel of Death will claim you. I agree that we do not have a caste system in St. Kitts like India or that being called the ‘N’ word can compare to what happened to me - but I realized that sometimes race and class work in tandem and are simpatico….

 

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