All I want to do was fit in. Not so much with the school community, but with my race. I feel like an outcast around them.
The name’s Chase. I’m mixed. My mom is African American but my dad is white. They have been together for 14 years. I didn’t come around until later in their marriage. My mom is a doctor for Ferguson Wyatt Hospital, while my dad is a lawyer for Mc Robinson law firm. They both are good at their jobs. Good enough to get bonuses and own a big mansion in the suburbs.
We live in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I like living here. It is nice and quiet. kids playing in the street, and friendly neighbors. I can’t complain.
I always went to schools out in the suburbs. My parents wanted me to have a really good education, so they sent me to the top schools. Schools where there were no fights, kids get A’s and B’s, and no one gets detentions. When I went to middle school, I went to one of the best schools in the suburbs. Guess who sent me. My parents. Why? Because they want me to get a damn good education.
I never feel right in those schools. It feel like the teachers and student are robots. I always have to do what they tell us to do. No back talking, no retaliation. That wasn’t me. So when high school came around, I wanted to switch things up.
One Thursday night, during dinner, I asked my parents to send me to a high school in the city.
“Chase, why would you want to do that when there are high schools nearby that are extremely outstanding” my mother asked me.
“Yeah son, I think it would be best for you to keep going to school out here,” my dad chimed into the conversation.
I didn’t want to do the same thing again. “I want to try something new this time. I can’t always do the same thing in life,” I told my parents.
I wanted to go to high school in the city because I could learn so much compared to what a suburban school could teach me. There were more ethnicities, and new teaching styles. I wanted a new me. I wanted a new environment.
Days later, my parents decided to let me go into the city for high school. I was ready to try new things. After an anxious and nervous weekend, thinking about what the school would be like. The first day school started.. I had to get up at 5:00 to get ready and leave the house before 6:00 because it is a thirty minute drive to get to the city.
When we arrived to school, my mom told me, "son be careful and pay attention to your surroundings". Then she told me have a good day and drove off to work. I didn't know why she told me this. Was she warning me to watch my surroundings because I was going to a new school or because I was in the city where with so many people. But, I wasn't worried about her, I was worried about how my first day would be.
I walk in the front door only to see that it was a normal school. Kids were talking. It was peaceful. I liked it. I can tell that I was going to get along with the people there. My first class was world history. The teacher’s name was Mr. Timothy. He seemed nice. As I looked around the class to find a place to sit , there was only one seat left in the back with a group of black kids. I had no problem sitting in the back of the class. My problem was the kids. They were loud. They were all over the place. That was the first time that I was scared of the school and the kids in it. This was not like my old school. At my old school, kids were calm and knew how to act.
After Mr.Timothy’s class,I thought maybe I should take a look at how the kids acted. Maybe fit in better in the school.
During lunch, I closely payed attention to some kids conversations. I thought talking like them, I would better fit in with them. I turned over to my right in order to hear a conversation with two girls.
One girl said, “I can’t believe he would do this to me. We have been together too long for him to do something like this”. I guess her boyfriend was cheating on her or he just broke up with her. I was surprised that she wasn’t crying much. Usually, if something like this happened to a girl at my old school, they would cry some much to fill a river just over something like this.
The other girl said to her,“It’s alright Catherine. You can’t let this put you down. If he wanted to do this then that’s what he chose to do”.
“Yeah, you’re right. I guess I can get over it,” said the girl who was crying.
I stopped listening to that conversation and I moved on. I kept on listening to other student’s conversations, but they were all the same things. Sex, grades, teachers they hate, what someone did to someone else. I can say I did pick up some words and phrases that might help me for about the first week.
It started to get bored listening to the same things. Until, the kids from the back of Mr.Timothy’s class came in the cafeteria. They were so loud and obnoxious, just like in class. They sat down not too far from me. Which was good because maybe I could learn something from them.
There were five of them. Three girls and two boys. One of the girls said, “Yo, what’s up with you and Tom, yo. I heard y’all were about to fight”.
“Naw man. I was about to fuck him up cause he wanna be talking all this shit. He know I can whoop his ass, then he will get knocked the fuck out. Real shit. I can even get my niggas from around my hood. I know people here will ride for me so I don’t give a fuck what he has to say,” one of the boys responded.
I was surprised. I have never heard so much profanity in my life. I’ve heard it maybe once or twice when my parents were arguing or when I someone in my old school hurt themselves. But no one said that much profanity in a single sentence. No one.
I turned my attention back to the conversation.
The same girl asked the boy, “So what’s good with you and Courtney? Y’all still together”?
“Man, fuck that bitch! I don’t care about her no more. All she was was a hoe.”
Now that really caught me by surprise. Never have I heard someone disrespect a woman like that. My mother taught me to respect everyone. She said to treat women the way I want to be treated. But I thought to myself, maybe he didn’t mean it. Maybe she was acting like a hoe. I don’t even know what that is. A hoe? Isn’t that a gardening tool? So she was acting like a gardening tool? Now I was really confused. This guy might help me fit in as bad as that sounds. But maybe him and his friends are my only chance for acceptance.
When school was over and my mom picked me up after school, she asked, “How was your new school Chase? Do you like it? Did you learn anything new today?”
Oh, I learned new things today. I didn’t want to tell her what I learned today so I just said, “I had fun today. I like the school.”
“Oh how wonderful! I’m glad you liked your school”.
Later that night, in my room, I practiced some of the words and phrases I heard from today.
“Bitch, sit ya’ dumbass down.”
“Whatchu mean cus.”
The grammar was hard to remember. “Your” turned out to be “ya”. “Whatchu mean” turned out to be “what do you mean.” And “cus,” from the looks of it, means “cousin.” I guess. The next day, I made an attempt to talk to them. I pretended to need help.
“Could you help me with this problem”?
“Sure. Whatchu need help with?”
I was surprised that he helped me. After he helped me, I asked him what was his name. He said his name was Antoine. I was cool with him. At lunch, I sat at the same table by myself just like yesterday. When Antoine saw me, he invited me to sit with his friends and him. I took this chance to learn more.
I learned more about Antoine and his friends. The three girls were Charise, Tiffany, and Taylor. The other guy was Freddy. Charise was the oldest and Taylor was the youngest in the group. They were very nice to me. I fit in with some kids. I knew now that I need to keep learning new words from them so I can be one of them.
As days and weeks went on, I became one of them. My grammar changed. I started saying what they said. Words changed. They weren’t proper anymore. I thought what I was doing was right. I never noticed it started to change at home.
I was talking to my mom one night. And everything I learned came out all at once. She said that I was changing. I thought she meant that in a mean way.
I said to her, “whatchu mean by that!”
With a confused look on her face she replied, “what did you say”?
“Whatchu mean” I repeated.
“Did you mean ‘what do you mean by that’, Chase?”
I thought a minute about what I said. I remembered she doesn’t know what that meant.
“Oh. Sorry I meant ‘what do you mean about that”.
Later on during the conversation I made another mistake.
“You started fraudin. I never said that.”
“Chase, what does that mean? Are you ok? Is there something that I don’t know of?”
It was at that moment knew that I shouldn’t use that language in the house. I knew I could only say these words and phrases outside at school because my parents would not understand and think that I am crazy. From that day on, that’s how it was. In the house, I would speak proper. But at school, I was a different person. I would use slang.I thought it was crazy how I changed. But, at least I was fitting in with people in my new school. At least I didn’t feel alone. I started to get in trouble at home when my mother heard this slang in the house. She would tell me that I’m not ghetto and I was raised better than this stuff. She got to the point one time where she took me to therapy for this. Luckily she changed her mind. After that day, I really thought do I want to keep this talk and hurt my parents, or do I want to let this go and have my new friends have a new perspective on me and think of me as a liar? To this very day, I still don’t want to let this go.