is that my Google Reader be POPPIN. I’ve never been a magazine or newspaper kind of girl, but I subscribe to 81 blogs and counting. Though my little corner of the blogosphere isn’t really that big a deal (12 followers, I’m sorry to tell you that I do this more for myself than for any of you. Please don’t be offended, I still love you.), I do lots of lurking and some occasional commenting on blogs that are followed by hundreds of people. And one of the blogs I’ve picked up most recently is The Black Snob. And I love it. And they have these tote bags and I’m very strongly considering buying one, because I think it’s just about the best thing ever:
But if I purchase this bag, which given my proclivities towards shopping, is very likely, I will have to come to terms with something I’ve been trying to deny about myself for the past few years. I…might be a snob. If not an out-and-out snob, definitely a little bougie, a little uppity, maybe even a bit elitist. I don’t always play well with others, particularly others who have had less opportunities than me–I want to, I try to, but it can be hard for me to relate. [I broke through to the kids at the school I worked at last summer with the fact that Renegade is my favorite rap song. They grudgingly accepted this as proof of my cultural legitimacy.] It’s not that I don’t value those who are less fortunate than me–on the contrary, I’m a sociologist–the people who get fucked over by society are my bread and butter, literally. I know that I’m an exception to every single rule in the book and if even the tiniest thing in my past had gone differently I wouldn’t be where I am. I am thankful every day for the circumstances of chance and happenstance that got me to where I am. But still…I’m here. And I don’t know what it’s like to be anywhere else, really.
I feel pretty similarly to the guy who wrote this article–I can shoot the breeze with professors and high-ups at financial corporations like my mentor last summer in Chicago, but what to talk about with the plumber? I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes I feel disconnected from the larger world…all that ivory tower shit and whatnot. It’s the same thing that happened at the Black Solidarity Conference when I wanted to come together with this group of people I identified with and feel like a part of something bigger than me (I love that feeling), but I couldn’t because I felt so isolated from everything they were pushing for. It’s the same thing that happened at the one and only MCIC (Multi-Cultural Interest Club…our closest thing to a minority-focused group) I went to in high school, at the beginning of my sophomore year; the advisors were trying to convince students that the SAT was worth taking and I had already broken 700 in one of my scores.
I’ve talked to some friends at Princeton about this and they say their families got them used to interacting with quote-unquote “regular people”, statements that just highlight the degree to which I’ve always felt isolated from my family. The vast majority of the people who are related to me live in the South and are practically strangers; the small bit of family I grew up with always treated me as different, causing me to self-isolate. Part of it was being an awkward age–my mom’s oldest, I’m only 11 years younger than her youngest sister, and as she was the first of my grandmother’s five children to have children of her own, there’s no one my age in my family (besides two step-cousins in Georgia)–but more of it, I think, just stemmed from a sense that no one knew exactly where I had come from. So they gave up on trying to convince me to play basketball and gave up on trying to convince me to run around outside and let me read. No team sports for me. Very little interaction with others as a child outside of school, in general. My imagination was my childhood playmate, which led me to grow into an adult whose greatest activity is mental.
I often wonder who I would have grown up to be if I Ms. Lambkin hadn’t realized that I wasn’t a troublemaker by nature in kindergarten, I was just bored. If they hadn’t bent the rules to let me start SEEK (Special Educational Experiences for Kids, a program my elementary school did) early. If I didn’t have the kind of mother who was willing to take the bus to the library with me and help me carry home huge stacks of books. If I had been involved in some activity that wasn’t primarily populated by other students who were very similar to me in their academic focus. If my friends hadn’t been pre-screened by simple virtue of the fact that we were in all the same classes for 8 years. If my mother was as lax with her expectations of me as she has been for my siblings. Would that alter-Maya be able to relate? Could she shoot the breeze easily with people who don’t consider themselves to be intellectuals? Would she have been friends with black people before Princeton? Would she draw fewer distinctions between black people here and black people “out there”? Would she have said less there instead of fewer? Would hip-hop be a choice rather than a crutch? Would books be a chore rather than a joy? Would she still be curious or would she feel like the questions she can’t answer aren’t worth knowing?
On my thesis-reading-list right now is Charles Horton Cooley’s Human Nature and the Social Order. On page 7, he says,
“We are born with the need to assert ourselves, but whether we do so as hunters, warriors, fishermen, traders, politicians, or scholars, depends upon the opportunities offered us in the social process.”
I agree with him 100%. I know that with any of countless slight changes in my history and those of my parents and their parents etc. I could have ended up on the management track at Wawa store 488 as my career as opposed to my job, or I could have ended up a hustler, a dealer, something worse. I could have gotten a two-year degree in something that would turn into a skilled job, and scoffed at the idea of a liberal-arts-college with a degree that doesn’t technically mean anything. I don’t blame the people that do, but the system that withholds from them the same opportunities it conferred to me, and above that I recognize that even in a world where everyone starts on the same line, not everyone wants or needs a life like the one I lead. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with choice as long as it leads to fulfillment.
But despite all of that, I still don’t know how to interact. One could look at my
education life history (they’re really one and the same until I finally get that PhD) as a process of gradually weeding out persons whom society would not deem exceptional in any way. A removing of the masses. I want to be able to dance with a guy at a party and not have him instantly know I go to Princeton as opposed to one of the 10 other schools that are represented. Sometimes I wish I had a diction and a set of mannerisms to fall back on that let me blend in in places like the South Side of Chicago. I wish I had ever felt like I truly belonged in any circles other than the ones I currently frequent. I want to find a way to at least visit peacefully without any inner turmoil.
But at the end of the day, I will never want to be anything but “bougie, brilliant, book-reading,
Chai Bigelow brand Lemon Lift tea sipping, uppity, degree-earning, ignorance-eviscerating, talented, tasteful, witty, saddity, uncompromising, revolutionary, daring-yet-caring, in-your-face…” Does that inherently make me a snob? If so, am I allowed to embrace it? Does it have to have a bad connotation? Most of those qualities aren’t bad! They’re things I strive towards! Can I flip the script somehow like people do with nappy and bitch and the other n-word I don’t tolerate?
Can I buy the bag?