My mom called today with news of my old high school. The high school I attended had this issue with integration. It was 98% African American. Which wasn’t a problem except there wasn’t much of a mix of races at the school. We had a few white people. Even fewer asians. An attempt at desegregation back in the 70’s led to a white flight situation. I remember being in high school and being the minority majority. It was interesting. It gave me a unique perspective on life I try to hold onto today.
There’s nothing like walking though an area and being the that minority majority at 41. I found myself on St Thomas in the USVI back in that mindset again. Actually – it’s not even a mindset. I hardly ever notice race. I guess the only time I do is when I start noticing people watching me. It’s not even that I notice I’m the only white guy – it’s just that everyone else notices that. As I was walking around Hospital ground, an area that was predominately African American and poor, I felt people watching me again. I heard people saying “WAPA (water and Power Authority) inspector is here…” – and I wasn’t that guy. So I try to interact and just be me. Which as several can attest is either a good thing or a bad thing.
I ended up on one street standing in front of a garage trying to decided where the house ended and the garage began. An elderly black gentlemen approached me. “You da addressing man?” he asked. I responded back that I was. He shook my hand.
“I used to work for da post office” he said.
“Then you know why I’m doing this – the addressing?” I asked.
“Yeah Yeah, It was hard getting mail to the right spot. We had a system. You going up to the crossroads?” I stood there. I had no clue where he crossroads were but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t anywhere near where we were working. “Where are the Crossroads?”
“Well – You white – you probably know it as Four corners”. He said. I looked at him and said “If I was three shades of green I have no clue where that is….is it back over the ridge? That way?”
“Close” he said. “We all knew it as the crossroads and then the white people started moving in and changed it to four corners”. I stood there and said “Well – sorry about that” and half chuckled.
“It’s OK” he said “White people screw everything up.”
I tried to keep from laughing and it didn’t work. “We do – we seem to mess up about everything. Here I am giving everyone a new address that isn’t anything like your old one” We talked about 20 minutes about volcanoes, weather, and retirement from the Post Office.
“Be careful out here” he said. I told him the same and wandered off down the street. I figured if I did inadvertently get killed while on field assignment it would make a fitting epitaph for a memorial: “Here lies Randy, the white guy. He screwed everything up on the islands”.