Cali Bama: Portrait of the Ugly Nigger

Watercolor on Paper

2016

Cali Bama

 

 

 

 

 

One day I walking to spend lunch in my math teacher’s classroom when I overheard a group of Portuguese boys refer to Dre as a nigger. These boys were your typical white trash too cool kids except they all came from wealthy families. Even though I didn’t like Dre and even though he constantly ridiculed my lack of blackness from the way that I spoke to the way that I walked, I knew that these boys had no right to call him that. Without thinking, I whipped my head around and scolded the boys for their language wagging my skinny finger in their faces and rolling my neck with impressive flexibility. I yelled at them with such passion I turned red in the face. Stunned by my audacity, they remained silent. My dad taught me to walk away when you’re ahead so I took my leave in their absence of words. I felt good, I felt empowered, I felt like I had done my part as a member of the black community and I left the scene smiling with their mouths agape.

 

Later that day as the sun kissed the sky goodnight, I stood alone in front of the school waiting to be picked up from wrestling practice. It was my older sister’s job to pick me up on Wednesday nights because my dad had Bible Study in our old town. It wasn’t long before I realized she forgot to pick me up, it wasn’t the first time but she always remembered eventually. I didn’t have a cell phone so I just had to wait. I closed my eyes and let the vibration from the drums of my music rattle my core. Before I could immerse myself too deeply, the roar of a truck engine forced me to open my eyes. My heart began to race as the boys whom I scolded approached me in a huge lifted white truck. They drove past me slowly. I had never seen a stare possess such hate; still, my anxiety left my body through my mouth as I let out a deep breath. I was certain they had retreated to carry on with whatever wealthy white boys do but I was still haunted by their glare and felt an overwhelming sense of uneasiness. I really needed my sister to come get me. My angst returned and increased as I saw the boys return, this time they parked directly in front of me. When I was bullied in grade school mama told me the best way to handle it was to put them on ignore. It worked when I was a kid because kids get bored when they aren’t getting attention. I hoped that the boys would get bored and retreat if I pretended not to notice them. So I stood there and nonsensically played with my iPod. The boy whom I told off got out of the driver's seat and walked around to the truck bed. His passenger followed. They unlatched the truck bed door and clenched rocks tightly in their fists. The driver came back around and shouted:

 

“Hey nigger, hey ugly nigger, ugly nigger”

 

Petrified and proud I remained silent. I knew they just wanted a reaction out of me; at least that is what my mom said my child bullies wanted. I heard the passenger ask the other,

 

“Can she hear us?”

 

This time, my silence didn’t make them go away, it only fuelled their attack. They became frustrated by my lack of acknowledgment and began hurling the rocks in my direction. Supplied by the canal next door, the rocks came in all shapes and sizes. Some were smooth; some jagged, some small, some baseball-sized. Those hurt the most.

 

“Ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger, ugly nigger

 

ugly nigger,                    ugly nigger

 

ugly nigger ugly nigger

ugly nigger

 

 

 

 

 

ugly nigger

 

 

 

 

ugly nigger”

 

 

91, I count when I’m nervous. After hearing ugly nigger, over and over again, I was no longer able to distinguish between the physical and mental pain of the attack. Both boys were on the baseball team, one was their star pitcher, his coach would have been proud. With impressive force, they threw rock after rock, stone after stone. Each was a mini meteor begetting flames that traced their pathway. I felt the rocks bruise organs and chip bones. I felt my cheek swell when one particularly jagged one hit the skin underneath my left eye leaving scratches on the surface. I clenched my teeth and pride collected in the pockets of my eye sockets. My body fell senseless but I could not turn my music up loud enough to drown the verbal assault.

 

After two hours, the boys fled after a Future Farmers of America meeting concluded causing our peers to pour out of a nearby building. I borrowed a cell phone from one of them to call my family.

 

When mama asked about the bruises and cuts on my face I told her it was a rough day at practice.

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