“When you get to school, you the brother… and when you come home, you the white boy.”

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Transcript for Perspective

I grew up on the east side of Detroit – East Warren and Buckingham. Typical neighborhood you would probably expect out of Detroit. Lot of nonsense going around.  My mother did a great job at preventing me from being around the kind of nonsense. I was always involved with a sport – two or three, at times. I can recall swimming, and guys seeing me leave at five o’clock in the morning for an event – a meet in Grand Rapids – and like, you know, next day when I come back they were like, ‘Where’d you go?’  And it’s swimming, and they were like, ‘What?’  You know, kind of thing, with soccer – any of that stuff – my mom always had me involved with it: football, basketball, baseball.

Our entire swim team…if you’ve seen the movie Pride, we had an entire – our entire swim team was black. Everywhere we went, we were the only all – African American team, which is cool. We were called the East Side White Dolphins. We sent some kids to Nationals, and that kind of thing, but I think we were all spread across Detroit. None of us all lived in the same neighborhood, so…

When you get out the water you get this big coat to put on so you can stay warm throughout the meet, you know, getting out of the water. Me and my brother used to wear those around like coats, kind of thing. I just, I don’t know, I just put it on when we were getting out the car to go into the house. I remember, guys would be like, ‘What is that?’ And they have a name for them, I couldn’t recall. It’s been quite awhile. But when we came back, you know, I’d run in the house, change my clothes, and if they were playing basketball, I’d go outside and play basketball.  I mean, looking at it now, it’s cool to be able to say that I had some diversity within sport.

Never went to a Detroit public school. My mom just didn’t believe that that was the way to go, so she’d, you know, bust three, four, five jobs at a time with some help from my dad in order to put me in parochial schools, so… It was tough going, you know, to the better neighborhoods to go to school because, you know, your friends in the classroom – they got a lunchbox, you know what I’m saying, like, they lunch look better than yours, kind of thing. You like, ‘What?’  You know, ‘What kind of – what kind of food your mom cook at the crib?’ You know? But my mom wouldn’t get home till, you know, nine o’clock at night from the second job she had that day.

It was a rule at my school that – no facial hair allowed. You would be clean shaven when you came to school. Teachers had shaving kits in their desks. You know, several times, you know, they wouldn’t even say nothing to you. They’d pull it up: ‘Mr. Jackson.’ And it’d be like, ‘Man…’ You know, kind of thing, and you just went to the bathroom.  And my biggest thing, I can’t put – if I put a razor on my face, you know, my hair just grows a little differently, you know, kind of thing. That’s what I think I was upset the most about, like, ‘Y’all just don’t understand me,’ you know, kind of thing. But I had friends get doctors’ notes saying that they couldn’t put a razor on their face, and, you know, he was six – seven, three hundred pounds, so they really wasn’t going to say too much to him, but I’m just this little cat, you know, a hundred and fifty pounds, and I just got these dreams of playing basketball, so I’m gonna do whatever you tell me to do, kind of thing, and call it a day.

I think it was after my freshman year of high school that I started understanding, like, what people thought about me, kind of thing.  And at fourteen, like, you don’t – I didn’t ever even think it would’ve been a problem, but, you know, as you playing ball, you know, as you hearing people talk – and it’s joking – in urban America, people joke all day, you know, that’s what they do, you know, it’s like a culture thing, and I didn’t have any jokes, you know, kind of thing.  I’d just kind of took that stuff, and I’d laugh with you, kind of thing.  But, you know, I’d go home at night and be like, ‘Man,’ you know what I’m saying, like, ‘That’s not – that’s not the reputation that I think I want,’ you know.  I don’t know anybody that’s, you know, that’s the – when you get to school, you the brother, for lack of a better term, and when you come home, you the white boy, you know?  So it was like, ‘What?’  So, I remember going back my sophomore year to high school, and they like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ Because I just had to be a thug, kind of thing, like, I had to give off that persona because if it was – I got to be comfortable where I go to sleep at night, kind of thing. That was my whole thing. I couldn’t care less what y’all think. Y’all gonna think about me whatever y’all thinking regardless of the fact – there’s nothing I can do, as far as I’m concerned, you know. Y’all gonna think I’m…whatever. But the guys in my neighborhood – the guys that I see as lifelong friends, kind of thing (this is my perspective then) – like, those got to be the ones that I can kick it with on a regular basis, you know?

And I think it took – the neighbor across the street’s father was one of the guys we looked up to in the neighborhood, and he was like, ‘Man, no, you in a good spot.’ You know? ‘They get down on you when the basketball tip, but you in a good spot,’ you know, kind of thing.  And kind of made me feel like, ‘If I could, I would send my son there, you know, but I can’t, you know, and you take advantage of that while you out there, you know, and you talk like you have some sense, because you do.’ You know, when you speaking like you got some sense, when you speaking like the kids in the classroom whose fathers are doctors and lawyers, kind of thing, when you communicating with them, you’d be a fool not to take some of the words that they use, and pay attention to how they using them, as far as I’m concerned. You know, you’d be absolutely ignorant if you weren’t – if you were paying seven thousand dollars for an education a year, your mom working four jobs, and you not picking up anything, and you being completely just against it in itself, you know, so…

You know, I can remember the same guys in the neighborhood we played – it was Finney High School, my junior year. I think it might’ve been, like, quarterfinals of the state playoffs. And I’m on the court with a guy I know, and I see on a regular basis, and he was like, ‘You a white boy.’ Like, trying to get under my skin, you know, kind of thing. And I was like, you know, at that point in time, I had already developed my train of thought, and it was like, ‘Thank you for telling me, you know, I can speak well,’ kind of thing, is kind of where I took that, and went in that direction with it. You know, he didn’t say too much more after that, but that comes from all of the jokes that I was able to like, absorb, coming from my neighborhood, and then kind of dish something out, in my own way, kind of thing. Call it whatever you want to, but I was completely comfortable with where I was at at that point in time.