Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lenten Project: Day Twenty-four

I was eight before it dawned on me that my skin was not going to turn black if I just stayed out in the sun more.  It was a pretty devastating realisation, since I'd been looking forward to the day when I'd look just like everybody else, and especially for my hair to look good in cornrows like my friends.  I'd imagined that I only needed a few more hours of sunlight baking time to get my skin to darken to a lovely mahogany, my hair to kink up into perfect puffiness, my eyes magically change to cocoa brown.

When it didn't happen, I was disappointed, to say the least.  I resigned myself to being white, but that didn't mean I really liked it.  We kids used to mock the American tourists who showed up on the cruise ships every week, laughing at their clothes, their mannerisms, and, yes, their skin colour.  It was just such an odd sight to us.  I really thought I was Grenadian, and people from my own country were "other" and alien to me. Visiting the States, which was very rare, was always a massive culture shock, partly because of all the white people.  It was strange for us to see more than two or three whites at a time.

We were American kids, yet not, because the culture we lived in and loved was Grenadian (and later Singaporean, and then Indian for my sisters).  But we weren't Grenadian either. We were Third Culture Kids.

I became more aware of the differences between me and my friends after that realisation. Despite being racist against white people, I also started to develop a prejudice against Islanders.  My parents never explicitly told us were were better than the people they were ministering to, but there was still this atmosphere of superiority, an air of, "we're better than you," that infected me.  I think it was because many Grenadians didn't have solid educations, and those that did weren't very respected by my parents.

I found a pamphlet of my dad's that he'd gotten while he was in seminary at Bob Jones University. It talked about the necessity of keeping the races separate in order to forestall the coming one world government, which would herald the End Times.  During this time period (the 90's), BJU was still staunchly against the races mingling, strictly enforcing their interracial dating ban.  The school's founder had preached vehemently against desegregation in the South, and that just spilled over into a lot of very evil teachings that the school and its constituents (like my parents) didn't give up till as late as 2001.

I didn't understand why, if black people were good enough to save (through witnessing and open air crusades), they weren't good enough to marry.  But, even though I didn't understand it, I didn't question it.  My superiority to my friends was an attitude I picked up from my parents, and they were right about everything in my eyes (till they weren't).  We were there to save those people, but they'd never be our equals.  My mom, the largest role model I had, didn't have any Grenadian women as close friends or confidants, so I should keep Grenadian girls at arm's length, too, and focus on deepening my friendships with other (white) missionary kids.

Other missionary kids fell in and out of puppy love with native friends, but I never did. There were a couple boys that developed crushes on me and would call me, though.  I remember one, Che was his name, I met at a King's Kids Club we held in a village.  He'd call and promise that if I married him, he'd be the one to get a job and I'd be the one to stay home to watch tv and have babies. I just laughed at him because I didn't know what to say.

I knew, though, that I wouldn't be marrying any Grenadian boys.  I was destined to go to Bob Jones University and meet the man God intended for me, get married right after graduation, and we'd serve God together, maybe even as missionaries.  Because that's what my parents planned and prayed for me.