People ask me how long have I been an activist or some say “shock jock.” Well let me tell you about the Diana who at 17 years old got tired of her next door neighbor passing for Caucasian. Yep, I got fed up and set the classroom on fire. My 100 year old dad and I were talking about it the other day as I went through the manuscript of one of the three books I have coming out. I still chuckle at how bold I was and I mean bold. I use to write columns back then for a paper called the New Jersey Suburbanite about how racist I thought the principal Mr. Eng was. I told it all and the Guidance Counselor, Mr. Rossner, told me I needed a psychiatrist. Really? I went to high school with some of the most famous celebrities of today. People like The Isley Brothers, John Travolta, Tony Bennet’s son, Sylvia Robinson’s children who sang Pillow Talk and started the first Hip Hop group The Sugar Hill Gang. Wilson Pickett lived in my town and that’s just to name a few. I grew up in Englewood, New Jersey from the age of 6 and came our of Harlem, New York where my dad worked at Birdland bringing me in contact with everyone from Dinah Washington, a close family friend to the Duke.
So here I am sitting in my senior high school class and Dwight Morrow High School of which I had been Student Body President at a weight of 300 pounds back then. You see, being obese encouraged me to excel. I even made one of the graduation speeches and shocked the hell out of folks who needed to told how racist our community could be including the principal. I was bold babe.
But back to the racial incident. The school had decided to give us a racial sensitivity test to see how black students vs. white students would react to the racist documentary that was well known at the time. I think it was called The Birth of a Nation. Well, let’s call the student Beverly for the sake of privacy and Beverly had blonde hair and blue eyes. She looked white and in tenth grade she had made me angry by assuming what I thought was an anti-black perspective on issues of the day even though I was far from being radical in any way.. So I just sat back and waited for my time to let people know I did not favor those who liked to “pass for white.” They wanted to take advantage of white privilege while black students got shafted. How I caught her was by her own quiet arrogance.
The teacher told the black students to take a survey from pile A and the white students to take a survey from pile B. The piles were in different sections of the classroom. I sat and watched as Beverly took the WHITE SURVEY AND SAT DOWN. I waited for her to start filling it out and then i asked the teacher why was she filling out the white survey. Beverly was paralyzed. The teacher told me Beverly had the right survey and then turned to Beverly and in the packed room asked “You are white right Beverly?” Beverly never answered and so I answered for her.
“No Bev’s black. She’s my next door neighbor. Her mother’s black, her father’s black; she’s black. ”
The entire packed class looked at Beverly who had passed all her life. “I’m not white.” she whispered, choked up. The class gasped.
Let me end on this note. I was 17 then and maybe I should not have acted that way but i would do it again. I disliked people who passed for something they were not simply because they knew it protected them and let them have access to a greater quality of life and treatment then others who were not of the white supremacy category. How were we to ever attain a level of equality if people passed and would not stand up for equality for the rest of us. I had to fight twice as hard to get the same respect or treatment the Dwight Morrow administration gave white students. I had to become vocal, write better, be more articulate and have this phony sense of humor when white people stepped out online. All Beverly had to do back then was sit there and be white and let her silence add to the prejudice all around us.
No, I don’t give a pass to black people or brown people or anyone if I don’t agree with a position they take. I don’t excuse the injustice of white people. I call it how I see it and that is where America needs to get to and it will because the barn door is now open thanks to the White Supremacy attitude of TRUMP and the dirt we have tried to bury is coming to the surface.
How come my history book when I was young did not say the white house was built by slaves? But my history book did say that Mary Bethune Cookman had teeth as strong as a horse.