Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Puerto Rican in the Muslim Hat

"Does anybody tell you that you are very beautiful?"

"Not often," I smiled.

And just like that, I met my much-longed-for first real boyfriend, at the late-blooming age of 19, midway through the first semester of my sophomore year at Yale.

I was on the train from New York City back to New Haven, flushed with excitement from my first "professional" audition somewhere "off-off-off-off-off-Broadway."

I'd just done a monologue for a black theater group that was high on anger and self-righteousness and low on quality of writing and acting.

Totally didn't matter.

I was flattered that someone had asked me to audition – in NYC!!! – and dreaming that I'd get the part, become a star and get the hell out of dreary, stressful Yale.

I noticed the Puerto Rican guy for three reasons.


  1. He was really cute. He resembled the 70's actor Erik Estrada.
  2. He was direct. He swaggered down the train aisle with confidence, walked right up to me and made his intentions known.
  3. He was wearing a Muslim cap that I associated with a famous Black Muslim organization, and it was a bit of a pleasant surprise to see a non-black person wearing it.
The latter requires a bit of an explanation.

I was having a mild love affair from a safe distance with all things Black Muslim, because the semester before, the Honorable Speaker Mr. Look So Good had given a rousing speech at the Yale Law School which had shocked, horrified, angered and terrified my white roommates, and I'd loved every single minute of it.

I was, in my recently desegregated state, grappling with something I'd only experienced once before in my life, when my family lived in a nearly all-white Pennsylvania town for a few months. Personal prejudice. Which is very different from institutional prejudice.

Institutional prejudice is when you pay higher insurance rates for living in a black neighborhood. Or when there are no grocery stores in your neighborhood. Or when your black public school doesn't even have an auditorium but you find out that some suburban white public schools have professional theaters, with state-of-the-art lighting and video equipment.

Institutional prejudice is impersonal and largely invisible. You know it's there, but you have the luxury of ignoring it 95% of the time.

Personal prejudice is different. It's being surrounded by white people who can't see the real you, who ask stupid questions, who play with your hair. It's when you're the Joint Chief of Staff and some jerk clerk at the airport won't let you into the high-security, VIP area because he can't fathom that you're the Joint Chief of Staff. Or in my case, it's when a gawky white boy knocks at your dorm door, looks past you as if you're the maid and asks if "Anyone's home."

Hand-in-hand with my new adventures in personal prejudice came the rude awakening that America wasn't the place I thought it was. For example, according to Honorable Speaker Mr. Look So Good, Yale was founded with money from slavery and the opium drug trade.

Yale was rocking my sense of patriotism and demolishing my Kumbaya, let's-hold-hands-and-love-each-other naivete.

So seeing a presumed Puerto Rican defiantly wearing a Black Muslim cap was definitely a turn-on.

So much so that no alarm bells went off in my head when he told me that he had learned about Islam during a four-year prison term.

Or that he was currently in a drug-rehab program.

I gave him my phone number without the slightest hesitation.

(Virginity Diaries Part 3 of 11:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Lessons Learned 1 2 3)

11 comments:

Bri said...

"So seeing a presumed Puerto Rican defiantly wearing a Black Muslim cap was definitely a turn-on.

So much so that no alarm bells went off in my head when he told me that he had learned about Islam during a four-year prison term.

Or that he was currently in a drug-rehab program.

I gave him my phone number without the slightest hesitation. "

I'm sorry...I can't stop grinning. This is priceless.

Awesome post as usual!

Assertive Wit said...

I can't wait to hear the rest of this LOL

manje said...

i want more~!!!
=)

Cheron L. Hall said...

Whew! Honey...I'm sure he must have been something else...standing out like that, he was sure to attract a young, curious lady in search of rebellion...

tell that story sis!

Sharon Reynolds said...

And then what!? :)

Sharon "Pins and Needles" Reynolds

P.S. This is my favorite blog.

Retromus-ik said...

I loved this post! You know how to tell a story!

Paula S said...

I always love, love, love your blog! This entry is a real cliffhanger. When do we get to hear more about this young Puerto Rican man?

Filipina girl said...

Hopefully you will blog more about this Puerto Rican guy. Hmmm, I wonder how he looks like. Great post though!

Terry said...

i hated having people play with my hair. Students I didnt know would walk up behind me while i was eating and play with my hair...like i was a damn caged animal.

Great explanation of insitutional and personal racism

Don't Be a Slut said...

Hey, everybody. It's so good to be back. I've been going through blogger withdrawal courtesy of long hours at my new job ... and blog-related drama. (I pissed off someone I care deeply about with one of my recent posts and couldn't bring myself to write for more than a week.)

Both factors have caused me to realize how important my blog is to me and how much I love blogging. So thanks for being such an important part of my creative process and my invisible, worldwide support system.

@Cheron - thanks for the Blog Catalog review. I tried to hit you up on Twitter and couldn't find you. Are you in the witness protection program now? LOL.

Lion-ess said...

lol! the last few lines is indeed priceless! Girl, you're crazy!

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