“But most of all, you respected yourself—especially at that age, you had to act like a lady. These children, especially the ones that I see—pardon me, if you’re not black and you’re reading this—I’m talking about the people I see in my neighborhood—cussing and screaming and yelling, talking louder than the boys, wanting to fight. I’d never in my life seen little girls act like this” (86).
At first when I read this passage I took the advice seriously. I’m not black so I should read the section, but not try to relate to it or understand it. Why bother? I’m simply a white girl from Maine with no experience in that kind of culture. However, when I continued on to see what she was describing I realized I did relate to it! I had indeed seen this exact scenario played out before my eyes. Take that Madea.
In my service with the higher achievement program I’m working with students and teaching them extra lesson plans after school to help them make advancements in their ability to learn. The students are all African American and are all normal, loud, obnoxious, sweet, funny, kids who struggle with paying attention. That I can definitely relate to. When I first got to the school yesterday we all gathered in the hallway for a quick activity and announcements. While sitting up against the lockers I started talking with one of my scholars, Kendrick. He’s one of the troublemakers of the group who struggles to pay attention, tries to blame everything on other kids, and is also hilarious and cute so you find yourself unable to get too mad at him. He was sitting with me and on the other side of him were these beastly girls. This was the picture of sixth grade I remember. Poor Kendrick, still waiting to hit his growth spurt, is a typical wimp. He’s shorter than many girls, super skinny, and has huge teeth that he needs to grow in to and will probably require braces. The girls, on the other hand, had already grown and towered over Kendrick (and me for that matter), with full figures and full strength to beat anyone up, and that’s exactly what they were doing. In some sort of scuffle these girls started screaming, their booming voices yelling, laughing, and insulting Kendrick. I think it was more of a play fight but when they began to hit my undersized scholar I stepped in, with a “Whoa, Why? Why are we doing that?” They just looked at me and turned away to the next exciting thing and I was kind of happy they hadn't decided to beat me up. And there sat Kendrick, with his sweater sleeve stretched out past his hand from an aggressive pull mid-battle. He had nothing on these girls, and it was kind of funny.
At the same time I was shocked to see such violent behavior from girls, I get the yelling thing, but why turn to the 30-pound kid next to you and beat him up? I thought it was interesting when Medea addressed this exact issue, explaining that girls need to start being more respectful and to stop “wanting to fight” and “yelling, talking louder than boys.” It was funny that I saw this exact scene played out, it was funny that she was right and girls should probably stop doing that, but it was more funny that she prefaced that statement with an “only black people will understand” disclaimer. Just like Tyler Perry is a man making observations about women and our culture, in my service learning I’m a white person observing African Americans. I’m excited to get to experience this culture, but I’m even more excited that I’m going to be able to understand and be able to remove the “you wont get this because you’re white” label. Although there are some things that I wont ever understand and will never be able to relate to I’m not as oblivious as Perry might think. I think that by adding the "pardon me if you're not black" statement he's only putting up more boundaries. I say let people relate to the parts in the book that they relate to. At the end it’s about human observation and just as Medea is talking about people she has seen in her neighborhood, I’m here to talk about people I’ve seen at middle school.