“What’s that, Daddy?” They were sprawled out on the living room floor on their tummies, chins cupped in their palms, watching the blurry black and white images flicker across the screen. “Is it a parade?”
Seeing Daddy focussed on the screen, Brother allowed his wriggling and fidgeting to include a punch or two to her shoulder and leg. “Owww!” she protested. “Stop it!”
“Quit your bickering,” Mommy’s voice came from the kitchen, “And leave your brother alone!”
She got up and moved to the other side of Daddy so brother would have to climb over him to get to her. “What is it Daddy?” she repeated.
“Well, it’s a bunch of kids going into a school,” he said, his voice measured, sombre. What could be so serious about going to school?
“Why are all the soldiers there?” she asked. “And why are all those people on the streets? Are you sure it isn’t a parade?”
Daddy shook his head. “Those soldiers are helping those kids get into the school be cause a lot of people don’t want them go.”
She squinted at the screen and saw a cluster of people wearing normal clothes, the soldiers clustered about them. “I don’t get it. Why don’t people want those kids to go to school? Kids have to go to school…it’s their job!”
Daddy shook his head, an amused smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “They are Negro kids, honey,” he said. “And those people don’t want the Negro kids going to school with their kids.”
She lay on her stomach a while, pondering this peculiar bit of information, watching the slow procession of the nine students and their Army escort. She didn’t disbelieve Daddy, but she couldn’t figure out any kind of a reason. “Why?” she finally asked.
Daddy nodded at the screen. “They think that the schools…and a lot of other things should be separate for the coloured people,” he said. “They have a thing called ‘separate but equal’ there.”
She pondered this for a moment, then shook her head. “I don’t get it. Why can’t they all go to the same school? Isn’t it wasteful to have two schools instead of one? Nana says ‘waste not, want not.’”
Daddy struggled to contain his smile. “Yeah, you’ve got a point there, punkin. Why have two schools or two water fountains or two of anything when one will do?” He looked back at the TV. “Maybe you should to talk to those guys.”
“Oh, for Chrissakes, Eddie, quit beating around the bush with her or we’re going to end up with a wagon load of snot-nosed little half-breed pickaninnies for grandchildren,” Mommy was standing in the kitchen door with her hands on her hips, a dishtowel slung over her shoulder, noxious odours wafting past her head. “Just tell her that they are a buncha dirty, lazy, shiftless niggers that nobody wants their kids to associate with and be done with it.” Mommy disappeared back into the kitchen, trapping the smells of burnt meat and hot, rancid bacon grease on the other side of the kitchen door.
“Yeah!” Brother chimed in. “I don’t wanna go to school with no nigger babies!”
“Why not?” she asked, keen to discover the reason for this peculiarity.
“’Cause they’re dirty and they’re shif’less!” he declared. “Mommy says so!”
She looked to Daddy for clarification, but he just shook his head. She pondered on it some more, watching the slow progression of the nine students and their military escort. People were coming out of the crowd and throwing things and she could see upraised fists being shaken and the soldiers holding the people back. It was scary.
“Do we have a different school for Negro kids? Is that why we don’t have any at my school?” she asked. She had seen Negroes before, but didn’t think she had ever seen one at school.
Daddy shook his head. “I don’t think any Negro families live around here…but if they did, their kids would go to school with you.”
She sighed. “Daddy, I don’t get it.”
Daddy turned on his side as a commercial came on. To the background tune of “Pamper, Pamper, new shampoo, gentle as a lamb, so right for you…” Daddy tried to explain.
“Some people don’t like certain other people and don’t want to associate with them…”
She nodded attentively. “I don’t like Stanley Moran and don’t want to play with him,” she offered.
“Why don’t you like Stanley Moran?” Daddy asked.
“Because he teases me and he calls me names and he’s mean to the girls and says bad things about other kids.”
“So you don’t like Stanley because he’s not a nice person?” She nodded. “Who do you like at school?”
“I like Trudy and Dana and…”
“What if Trudy’s skin was black? Would you like her then?”
“Of course,” she said. “She would still be Trudy, wouldn’t she?”
Daddy gave a little shake of his head, muttering something about “mouths” and “babes.”
“Well, honey,” he said, sitting up into a cross-legged position. “There are people who would not like Trudy just because she had black skin. Because they don’t like anybody with black skin.”
She was beginning to get it. “Because their skin is black?”
“Bingo!” Daddy said. “Because their skin is black.”
“Well, that’s just not fair!” she huffed indignantly. “They can’t help having black skin! Not like Stanley could be a nice boy if he wanted to be.”
“That’s true,” Daddy said, drawing her into his lap. “But that’s the way it is…or at least the way it has been for as long as I can remember.”
“What do you think, Daddy?”
“I think they should send all the niggers back to Africa,” Brother piped up. “They don’t belong here anyway.”
“Nobody asked you,” she said, sticking out her tongue from the shelter of Daddy’s lap.
“I think it’s OK to have Negro neighbours,” Daddy said. “And it’s ok to work with them and go to school with them, even sit next to them on the bus or at a café…and maybe even have Negro friends. But I don’t think it is ok to go out on a date with one or to marry one.”
Well, that was a new thought! “Why not?” she asked. The rules surrounding Negros seemed to be very confusing and without any identifiable logic.
“Because if you date one, you may marry one…and then the children will be half Negro and half white and nobody will want them because they won’t be either one.”
Ah. That made sense. Sort of. She looked at the TV again, trying to find people who looked half Negro and half white, but couldn’t seem to find any. Looked like Daddy was right.
“Do you know any Negroes?” she asked. Mommy called them for dinner.
Daddy nodded, helping her up onto her feet. “Yep. Got a couple of Negro boys working down at the shop on the weekends, pumping gas, cleaning up, that sort of thing.”
They moved towards the kitchen, her footsteps dragging as she recognized the smell of liver and onions fried in bacon grease. “I don’t think I’m very hungry, Daddy,” she said, hanging back.
Daddy smiled and laughed outright. “You don’t fool me with that act,” he smiled at her. “C’mon, I’ll make sure you get a really little piece…”
It is difficult to deal with a narcissist when you are a grown, independent, fully functioning adult. The children of narcissists have an especially difficult burden, for they lack the knowledge, power, and resources to deal with their narcissistic parents without becoming their victims. Whether cast into the role of Scapegoat or Golden Child, the Narcissist's Child never truly receives that to which all children are entitled: a parent's unconditional love. Start by reading the 46 memories--it all began there.