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- The Week’s End
Jay and his father get into the hot car and sit in the burning seats. Jay sits in the front seat, his father doesn’t fight it. He’s to exhausted to care right now. The only thing he tells him is to put his seatbelt on, Jay listens, and his father starts the car, not putting on his. They leave the school’s parking lot and head home. The car ride is quiet at first, this worries Jay, his father is always listening to some kind of music. Rather it be Funk, Jazz, Blues, Hip-Hop, even R&B when he’s feeling it. But not today, he was quiet.
“What’s wrong, Dad?” asks Jay
“What do you mean?” he replied.
Jay didn’t know what to ask him exactly…he pauses for a second and says,“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine” he replies, “it’s nothing you have to worry about”.
“You sure?” Jay asks
His father doesn’t say anything, he just looks at the road. His face is stern and solid like a rock, but the cracks start to show as he starts to reveal his emotions. He holds on to the wheel tightly, he blows up his chest then……sighs, relaxing his whole body.
“I quit my job Jay” he says.
He then waits for a response; empathy, anger, sadness, even happiness but receives no emotion from Jay, just an innocent stare.
“Why?” asks Jay.
“Because” he says….He stops at a red light. “Because they treated me like I didn’t even belong there. Like I didn’t deserve to be there. Like I didn’t work my ass off just to get the opportunity to work there, let alone do the job. I swear Jay if I was…”
Horns honk behind them, cursing at him to go. Jay’s father steps on the gas and sighs, not willing to fight anymore. He looks at Jay and sees himself and sees the potential that he once had.
“Jay” he says.
“Yeah Dad” Jay says.
“Do you ever wish that you were white?” he asks.
Jay quickly responds with, “No.”
His father was taken away by his quick response but is proud of it. Jay then asks his father, “Why..should I?”
His father, reluctant to say anything remains quiet at first. But Jay’s sharp eyes on him breaks him down.
He eventually says, “Imagine you’re taking a test and your friend is also taking the same test. But the difference is that a teacher is helping your friend the whole time and you’re all by yourself. Oh, and your test is in Chinese.”
Jay laughs, taking it as a joke but his father’s face and tone remain the same.
“They’re privileged Jay. With jobs, clothes, food, money, protection, education, anything you can think of. They have the advantages that we don’t because they are white and we are not.”
Jay, now upset asks, “Why?”
“Because that’s the way things are. No matter how hard working, smart or good you are at something, people will always hire the guy who is less qualified as you because he is white. It’s unfair. They get all the advantages with jobs while others have to take what they can get. And with those jobs they get more money and live happy, while others have to suffer. And with that money, they can acquire more knowledge (a.k.a college) resulting in them getting more jobs, repeating the cycle. The cycle keeps them in power and everyone else has to remain dumb and blind to what’s going on around them. And we’re suppose to look up and “admire”, “respect” and “love” what we can’t have or be. F-k That.
Jay’s father slams on the breaks, almost running the lights. He sighs again in anguish, then relaxes.
“It’s just hard living in a white man’s world. Having to deal with discrimination everyday at every waking moment for your whole life……It makes you think. …am I even good enough? It destroys your self- esteem, to the point, you start to hate and resent your own existence. It can even cause people to act and try to be something they’re not. And to see someone you know do that…it breaks your heart.”
The light becomes green, Jay’s father is slow to react but hits the gas and takes a right, going into the liquor store. He says, “be right back” and gets out the car while Jay just sits there, thinking to himself. “Is it better to be white?” He never really thought about it. He stares out the window, believing he’ll just find the answer. His dad comes back with a six pack, he puts it in the trunk and gets in the front seat.
Jay asks him, “Dad, do you wish you were white?”
As he leaves the parking lot, he says, “It seems like an easy answer huh? Why be anything else when you can just be white right? Well to answer your question…..I’m black.”
Jay, confused with his answer gives a puzzled look.
“I couldn’t be white even if I wanted to be Jay. I was born black, that’s who I am and I’m going to be proud of it to matter what anyone says or does to me.
Jay smiles, approving the answer.
They make it home and are about to get out the car, until Jay’s father says, “Jay….don’t tell your mother I quit my job. I’ll tell her, but not now ight.”
Jay nods in acceptance and walks in the house with his father.
Shumon Jenkins is an EC sophomore.