by Nkosi Ife Bandele
As soon as my wife told me that our little girl was being bullied at school, I was ready to go off the deep end. I’m like that. Nobody, and I mean nobody, messes with my kid, and, shoot, I’ll fuck up a little kid!
I really don’t get my wife. After she urged me to stop being hysterical, she calmly informed me that the bully was the transgender kid in the class, “Darcy” formerly Darius.
I went all in: “How you gon be transgender and a bully?”
Yeah, I went there, and I knew I was wrong, but hell, I was mad, and at least for the moment I didn’t want be a “progressive” parent. I wanted to be a mad ass, a bigoted mad ass.
Still, since I was, for all intents and purposes, progressive, and couldn’t really say out loud more of the fucked up shit I was thinking (at least not to my wife, genuinely progressive herself and already through with me), I enlisted the support of the two people who I knew didn’t give a shit about doing the right thing, and who moreover dearly loved my daughter, too: my irreverent older sister and my pious grandma.
My sister called Darcy a “misfit.”
My grandma proclaimed “end of days.”
They helped me return to my senses.
I was mad about the bullying, nothing else.
I didn’t give a fuck about Darcy. I had known her since her Darius days, and if she, or anyone else, wanted to determine her own gender, what business of that was mine, and what right did I have to be a bigot about it?
When my daughter previously expressed her concerns about Darcy and her change, that’s for the most part what I said to her, and I insisted she be considerate, supportive even.
Before entering our meeting with the vice principal and Darcy’s parents, my wife pulled me aside and demanded that I tell her exactly what I intended to say. That annoyed me because while it is true that I had initially responded like an ass, and my wife knew that I could say some fucked up shit in private, I was generally quite gracious in public, progressive hypocrite that I am!
Anyway, I agreed to remain quiet.
After hearing the details of the incident, however, I felt further challenged. Darcy, who happens to be white, and her new “mean girl” white girlfriends, had teased my black daughter about her hair, which was straightened and apparently “sticking out in every direction” at the end of long and arduous school day. Even though all of the girls giggled at the sight of my daughter, Darcy had made the remark.
As promised, I sat there quietly listening to grownups sort it all out, and, geez, how tangled it all was! No hair pun intended. On the one hand, I was still feeling rightfully ashamed for indulging myself in my bigotry. Darcy was a likeable kid, more or less, bright and attentive, and her parents, who were elderly and folksy, had always been cool with me. On the other hand, when I heard it was “white bullying black” for being black relatively speaking, I was privately re-incensed and privately stooped to name calling, Damn crackers!
A moment later, I started thinking about how much I hated that my daughter and my wife had in effect bullied me into allowing my daughter to straighten her hair in the first place, which I had adamantly opposed for years, feeling that it was shameful for blacks, and them finally insisting that it was a women’s thing . . . you wouldn’t understand! In fact, my rather feminist daughter and likewise mom argued that male me (despite my own feminism) was trying to control her female body. I remembered shaking my head when they agreed upon that, Women!
In the end, Darcy apologized in that clueless way that kids apologize when made to, her eyes floating around the room. The vice principal made sure that Darcy’s apology was okay with my daughter, who indicated that it was with a slight tilt of her head. This delighted Darcy’s parents and my wife who all apologized too. They were sorry that the whole thing had happened. At that point, I felt that all eyes were on me, perhaps I was supposed to apologize as well, and I did feel that I had reason, but I opted to stay silent, to keep my thoughts to myself.