Chapter 1 harker heights, tx + depression gas up shawty


My grandparents worked their entire lives, both twice retired, saved everything they had to live in this home at the top of the hill, three cars in the driveway, one whose sole purpose is to be towed behind the 38-foot RV in the backyard. The epitome of black success perched right next to average ass white people who came to the same wealth in half the time and half the struggle. And that pretty much sums up Harker Heights, Texas. We were close enough to Ft. Hood (the world’s large Army Base) to become accustomed to young soldiers speeding around town in their Cameros or Challengers and their army wives constantly vomiting their husband’s ranks like it somehow made them important but far away enough to have our own Walmart and movie theater and to call doing something in Killeen “going into town” despite the fact that both cities share the same two zip codes. The duality really manifested itself best at school. Because it was a military town, the minorities at the schools I went to in Harker Heights were extremely diverse. My best friend was Guamanian. I knew kids from Mexico, Taiwan, Honduras, places all over the world. I was never ignorant enough to group all Hispanics and Latinos together because I actually knew people who were Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, etc. We had kids from multiple countries in Africa, the Caribbean Islands, and the Middle East. But because it was the suburbs, the diversity amongst white folks wasn’t the greatest. The most ethnically diverse white kid in our class was first generation Italian-American, The rest were the typical, “I’m 14% Irish, 12% German, 39.5% British…” type of white people and to them all Hispanics were Mexican and Africa was a country.

Not only was I tired of always getting into trouble because I was in a class where I wasn’t being stimulated and constantly needing to find ways to entertain myself, but I felt like this was going to be my group. I’d finally found my people. Then my mom said no, and despite their day to day involvement, my grandparents agreed. I hadn’t even considered that that was even an option, me NOT being able to join TAG. Even at that age the lecture about school being the key to success and working twice as hard to get half as far had been burned into my brain so why would she keep me from taking this first step? My mom said she didn’t want me to feel overwhelmed, not only moving from elementary to middle school but taking an academic leap as well. That was the first time I felt like I had to prove myself to my mother and my grandparents. I really felt like they didn’t believe in me. My teachers had been telling them over and over that I needed more, that I’d be happier and more productive in a different academic setting. For them to just ignore that felt like they were ignoring me. This was my chance to be a part of something and it was stolen from me. In hindsight, it’s obvious my mother was trying to protect me from being too overwhelmed but that doesn’t change the fact that would go on to become one of many times I felt like I didn’t have a voice that was being heard.

I joined my 7th-grade year and I hated it. I was behind academically and socially. I had to make up for the year these kids had jumped during 6th grade not to mention I was the odd person out because all the kids that hadn’t been in TAG in elementary school went through the whole “we’re the new kids to TAG” phase their 6th-grade year. So, despite being among relatively familiar faces, I was again, the new kid, the loner trying to figure himself out. This was all compounded by the fact that not only were these kids the smartest and most popular in the school, but their moms were PTA members and their dads coached various sports. For the most part, these kids were a part of families that made up the wealthy elite of the community and I definitely didn’t fit into that mold. furthermore, TAG classes weren’t as diverse as the others. TAG made me feel like the token black kid on scholarship at the prestigious and predominantly white private school. I felt like I had to prove myself to these kids that I was worthy of an audience with them.