Being Black in a Christian College — Pawpaw’s hood
I have not spoken of this very much. I only in 2019 told this story on stage in my one woman show for a festival in NYC. I hesitate to tell this story because it’s such a story that scares me and I fear backlash. This is my story.
In college I made a lot of friends. I had multiple friend groups, some big, some small, some closer than others. I only joined the Black student union for a semester or two and I was in one of the choirs that I did not have to audition for. We only sang like three times in the year. Anyway, I was finding my way out of introvert and into “I do have friends”.
There was a group of what some might call hot girls that I would hang out with. Probably more of when they wanted or didn’t mind me hanging out with them and less let’s invite her to hang out. They were the make up, body, and money type girls. As an adult I wonder how much all of that was an accurate representation of who they were. I was the Black girl with little or no make up but a chill personality and not a huge bother. A tag along.
This particular night the one friend I was closest to who lived on my floor of the dorms invited me to go with her and another friend to her boyfriend’s apartment. One of the rules of the apartment living was no one was to have guests of the opposite sex in their rooms but only in the common areas and no visitors after a certain time. The three of us were kind of sneaking in to the apartment building because it was either close to visitor curfew or we’d be there longer than curfew.
We went in and the set up was a basic dude apartment with a couch set and not much else. We hung out, having a decent enough time. It was also getting late and I and the other friend weren’t really interested in staying very long. So we were doing our it’s about time to go dance. Stretch, stand up, yawn, look at the time. Then the boyfriend says, “wait, I want to show you something.”
We sit back down as he goes into his room with a giddy type of smirk on his face. He comes out with his grandfather’s KKK hood on. I froze, lost my breath for a moment, and then he took it off and I started laughing. I stayed calm. He asked if I was offended? I said no. He then called some of his choir mates who were Black and I also looked up to them. He told them that I was over at his apartment and that I didn’t have a problem with him having his grandfather’s hood. He then put the hood back on his dresser, and the other friend said it was time for us to go.
I do not think the other friend liked him in general and I think she understood what had happened. We were supposed to leave together the three of us but just the two of us left, duh. Once we exited the apartment building and began walking back to our dorm, she asked me if I was okay? I said yes. I believe I brushed it off. I never went to his apartment again, my friend went on and off with him for a while. I stayed away when I knew he’d be around. What I regret the most is I never said anything. What I also knew is it would’ve never mattered. He had all the status he needed for my word to have been void.
I was embarrassed and kept it to myself for many years. Occasionally I’d speak about it once I graduated and left. I protected that young man because I never said anything negative about it. He ended up leaving the school for private personal reasons, I’m not clear on.
I recently looked at a year book from that year and I saw him and it felt like identifying an attacker. I said to myself, that’s him.
No this young man did not attack me. I was never physically assaulted. I was never actually threatened. We were all 18 years old, but I believe he knew what he was doing. It’s sad because it worked.
I would never have anything like this happen to me again at the school. It was a once in a lifetime incident for me. The other stories I tell do not hold the same implications on the surface but each incident holds power, and works directly for what I now understand is the structure of white supremacy. I now understand my role in combating it today. My role may change over time in how I fight against it.
To the 18 year old trying to figure out if what just happened to or around you was wrong, please know you are not alone.