But these revelations were yet future in my eighth grade year. Where I have little recollection of curriculum prior, of the eighth grade my memory is strong. My Anglo-Christian identity was under constant scrutiny. In social studies class we were severely lectured on the unique and conjoined evils of the White Man and Christianity. Yet conversely, in science class were taught that Christianity and the White race were both myths. In reading and literature we read all the sentimental indictments of Western civilization and Christendom from the perspective of the Indian, the Black, the Mestizo, the Jew, and every other alien vista imaginable. We learned the great virtues of Judaism, Hinduism, Shamanism, and Islam, while all representations of Christianity had to be anecdotally negative, and never descriptive of doctrine – else, we were assured, we violated the separation of church and state.
The few White children remaining all seemed to sigh, shake their heads, and, if there were two in a class, shoot one another knowing glances of commiseration across the room. Those of the non-White majority who had any measure of an academic turn about them seized on every morsel of propaganda, and kept each indictment ever ringing in the ears of the White minority. Meanwhile, those not distracted by academics were threat enough without the rhetoric.
But if the classroom was hostile, it didn’t compare to the time outside the class: for Whites, lunch break was a gladiatorial event. Certainly, those who brought food from home could, at least conceivably, avoid the epicenters of trouble such as the quad and cafeteria. But that didn’t really work out either because if you were seen with a sack lunch, little mobs formed spontaneously, intent on depriving you of that meal. No, they wouldn’t eat it. They’d throw it and stomp on it. For these reasons, by my seventh grade year the school actually had to prohibit all food from home. Thus making the quad and cafeteria unavoidable, anyway.
One lesson on diversity was always reinforced before you even got into the cafeteria: non-Whites, especially Blacks, seemed not only largely incapable of keeping the basic etiquette of a line, but were genuinely offended by the assumption of any standard of propriety in the matter. If one cut in front of you, and you objected, you stood at least a 90% chance that he (or she) would attack you. But if you didn’t immediately object, the first one would be joined by anywhere from three to ten more. They would remember you and cut in front of you every day afterward. And not just that ten, but every opportunist who saw you concede your place the day prior. In essence, to allow one loud Black kid to cut in front of you was an invitation to them all to do so. So you learned to fight for little things. If not, you were certain to lose more than just the little things. Due to overcrowding, the prohibition of sack lunches, and many thugs forcing their way back in line for a second lunch, it wasn’t unusual to see a weak child pushed to the back of the line over and again until the lunch break was spent, and he simply went without.
One time, a Mexican kid covered in homemade tattoos, the sort obtained through the laborious process of pricking the skin repeatedly and rubbing ballpoint pen ink into the wounds, cut in front of me, at which I told him to get to the back of the line. He stared at me hard for a moment, but cracking a smile, he stepped out from in front of me only to jump back in line right behind me. In my momentary relief, I had little concern for those in line behind me; let them fight their own battles, I thought. To my shame, I determined to ignore him. That lack of concern for my neighbor and lapse of naivete – giving him my back – would prove costly: I felt a sudden succession of painful jabs. He had stabbed me with a pencil twice in my lower back and twice in my legs, breaking off the tip high in my hamstring. Shaken from my momentary ease, I delivered him the corrective blows necessary to halt the stabbing, and nothing more. I couldn’t linger; I had to elude campus security.
At the time, due to my unusual living situation, I knew any trouble resulting in scrutiny on the part of the administration would likewise result in the same from police and social workers. That I was determined to avoid. Which is to say that if I fought, I had to evade detainment. So I missed lunch that day and spent the next half-hour in the restroom digging the pencil lead out of my leg with the contraband pocketknife Poppa had given me as reward for first defending my little cousin from predatory Mexican kids.
As for the cafeteria, even the volunteer students (who were as often as not working there as some sort of punishment) would habitually provoke any White student who happened by. Silly as it sounds, the Black kid responsible for dispensing the little milk cartons, having both regular milk and chocolate milk for students to choose from, would give White kids only white milk, regardless of their preference. He thought it funny. I genuinely preferred regular milk anyway, so it was no loss to me, but since he meant it as an effrontery, anytime he asked what kind of milk I wanted (in full knowledge that he’d give me only white milk), I took to replying, “I fight for what’s white.” Just to douse his adversarial glee.
In such an anti-White environment, little things like that meant a lot. As a Christian I came to understand these things as spiritual battles, realizing that in my being unapologetic of my European heritage, I was in fact resisting the heavy temptation toward cowardice and self-hatred which the entire anti-Christian system seemed preoccupied with instilling in White children. So defiance of the humanistic anti-White milieu meant that my sense of heritage developed indivisibly from my Christian faith. Because standing for one was implicitly standing for the other.
All considered, my naturally introverted tendencies were really only overcome by such testing as this. The many crossroads at which I regularly found myself in early life well acquainted me with my own weakness and my absolute dependency upon Christ as my strength. If I had the courage to identify unashamedly with the American rootstock of which I am part and the Christendom which they represented, it was only by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Nonetheless, as it pertained to the church, I was embarking on a course which would prove decisive. Phil invited me to his junior high group under the Brethren church in Cypress, CA. For those unfamiliar with the area and the time, I must explain that Cypress sits over the county line, inside what was even at the time still a famed Republican stronghold, Orange County. It seemed to us Paramount kids like a demilitarized zone – a White Christian utopia. There was no graffiti anywhere. No pit bulls running loose. No rap nor banda music blasting from cars. In fact, there was no music of any kind blasting because, unlike other groups, White people generally think it obnoxious. Everywhere we went people seemed remarkably pleasant. We could walk the streets around the church without menacing stares, threats shouted from passing cars, or assault. To Phil, his brother, and me, being in a majority White neighborhood again, as ours had been when we were younger, was nothing short of euphoric.
If I knew nothing of Brethren doctrine at the time, neither did the youth pastors instructing us. The sermons always centered vaguely around “committing your life to Jesus,” or “standing for Jesus”: things which they ever encouraged, but never defined. All the worship music was performed in folk fashion and the lyrics were generically Arminian – mostly promises to do this or that for God. But the crowd of kids sang with heartfelt gusto.
You have to understand, as my town had transformed from White to non-White, the Sunday school bussing was discontinued because absent the White population, those quaint programs of the area churches had folded. Irrespective of their claims of Christianity, the Black and Brown children just did not identify with Christianity in the same way as the foregoing White children had. So next to the joy of engaging again in the corporate worship of Christ (after some three years without it), the sight of so many of my of my own people together singing the name of Christ was a redoubled joy.
But it wasn’t just Phil, his brother, and I. We brought our Mexican friend, Filipino friends, and one half-White, half-Vietnamese kid with us as well. It was apparent that the experience was quite different in their eyes than in ours. We all enjoyed ourselves, albeit for different reasons. Though the White guys very much noticed the beauty of the White girls in the church, we were foremost occupied with questions of things divine, and reveling in what was to us an overall wholesomeness of not just the little assembly, but the surrounding city. Meanwhile, with the non-White guys it was just the opposite: they were wholly preoccupied with the pretty White girls. Oh, they sang along to the worship songs, but with exaggerated inflections and posturing which looked to all appearance like the pretenses of stage acting. The entire time before and after the services, while the White guys discussed what they were learning of the faith, or confessing their sins to one another, the non-White guys were busy dancing and flirting with all the White girls.
This initial difference between us presaged who would continue in the church. Aside from camping retreats, the non-White guys quit coming. The retreats, of course, were an exception in that they provided opportunities with the girls which were otherwise inaccessible at the weekly functions.
Enchanted as I’d been with that new church environment and the surrounding community which comprised and sustained it, an all-consuming spiritual turmoil would shortly overtake me. These young White Christians appeared to me like a species returning from the brink of extinction; they ever had the name of Jesus on their lips and harbored no violence in them as I was so inured in my own neighborhood, and they spoke in terms of the same cultural tropes and memes as I. Yet, listening to their testimonies week after week (a centerpiece of evangelical culture) and being constantly pressured to relay my own, I realized how different their experiences were from mine. Their testimonies were all alike in that they grew up in a homogeneous and peaceful environment of well-to-do families. The girls repented of coveting a friend’s $400.00 jacket, or her walk-in closet. The guys repented of things like having once smoked a cigarette or making fun of people who couldn’t afford to go to the ski resort. These kids had been raised surfing, skiing, driving dune buggies, parasailing, yachting, golfing, playing tennis and volleyball, and flying to Hawaii and Cancun.
Despite our commonalities, their griefs were not mine. Where they repented of smoking a cigarette, I repented of my being too weak to have prevented a young White girl losing her innocence to savages. If they repented of tasting a beer, I repented of leaving my little sister and bastard half-brother to wallow in the sleazy environment created by my mother’s lifestyle. If they confessed to their struggles against coveting another’s designer clothes, I struggled to repent of the vanity of thinking I might somehow save my mother from herself.
None had fathers listed as missing persons. None of their mothers had turned to dealing meth for a living. None had lost their homes so the government could build projects for minority felons. None lived on their own and stole food in order to survive. None had ever had Mexican gangbangers sic pit bulls on them. None had spent a night in the hospital after being stomped by a mob. Nor had any of them fought for their lives and the lives of others like themselves in a race riot. None had ever risked their lives by being White.
God forgive me, I came to resent them for it. They had the benefit of private schools. They had traveled the world. Yet they had no inkling of the extermination campaign being waged upon their faith and their folk one county over. They lived happy-go-lucky lives, hacky-sacking, surfing, and snowboarding, contemplating the universities they might attend, and all the charities and missions to poor Brown and Black people they could get their wealthy parents to fund along the way. In short, their testimonies, their daily concerns, and their general preoccupations grew ever more insulting to me because these wealthy White Christians were oblivious to the plight of girls like Hanna but tearfully committed tithes and prayers to her abusers.
Finally, when one of the two Blacks that attended the church (bear in mind, that’s out of 3,000 or so White members) raped and killed a young White girl of the congregation, the youth group held a candlelight vigil. Yes, they prayed for the family of the murdered child, but most prayers that night were for the murderer to know that Jesus loves him just the way he is, and for him to avoid the death penalty.
That one set Phil off as much as me. Outraged, he asked, “What is this, the Democratic National Convention?!” Neither of us would return to that church for some time.
It tore me apart every time, but I made a regular point of visiting my mother and my siblings in whatever fresh hellhole they were staying. Just to know. And to know what to pray. The one they settled in longest was called the Tahitian Village. It was a sprawling Hawaiian-themed facility with multiple pools and palm trees which had long been notorious as a drug-dealing and prostitution flea market. One night, escorting my sister from their motel room to the little liquor store across the parking lot, a group of Blacks began yowling and grunting at her, and two of the group dropped their pants, exposing themselves. Hurrying her along, one tried grabbing her, and I punched, kicked, and bit for all I was worth to free her from the man. I still shudder to think of my little sister and brother consigned to such a squalid existence. The rage, remorse, and shame were overwhelming to me.
Then, my mother left her boyfriend. Consequently, I lost my little camper home, and all the late-night liberties to the Legion hall.
But no sooner had she left one than she took up with another: this time with a member of an outlaw motorcycle club. She had moved herself and my siblings into his house, which was in an upscale part of Long Beach. His house had exterior mounted cameras and a wall of security monitors in his office. He apparently occupied a more significant position in the world of narcotic distribution than my mother’s previous beau. I went to visit her and my siblings there, again, just to know. At least they were in a safer, Whiter neighborhood, I consoled myself.
My mother insisted I stay the night, and I conceded. The next morning that house was raided by the DEA and L.A. Sheriff’s department. My mother and her boyfriend both went to jail. My siblings were taken in by some friends of my mother’s with Set Free Ministries, only to be reunited with my mother a few months later in a Christian rehab facility in the mountains. They stayed there a couple years, I think.
My grandparents arranged for me to move in with them at their place back in Paramount, right around the corner from the family property seized and converted to a project for minority felons. My uncle stood with me in family court, and assumed my guardianship. I was thus able to re-enroll in school, where I was forced to repeat the eighth grade.
Read Part 6