Goodness, I’m in a story-sharing mood lately. Can’t say why exactly, but I’ve decided to go with it. Why not?
Flipping through some clips on YT and came across one about girl-on-girl bullying. Reminded me instantly of a very negative situation I experienced with a young black woman while living in a rougher area in a bigger city about 9 years ago. We’ll call her “CeCe” (close enough).
What an incredibly angry young black woman she was whom I just happened to get so lucky to have as an upstairs neighbor. She was about I’d guess around 20 (I was 23 at the time) and was taking care of her niece and nephew for the summer and had her boyfriend staying there as well. I had lived there for maybe a year before CeCe moved in, and I’d befriended several of the neighbors in a type of neighborhood I’d never really experienced living in before then: inner-city in a metro of about 1 million people, very low-income section close to downtown (most folks on food stamps and housing assistance programs, with plenty claiming disability coverage), two blocks away from the most notorious drug corner in the city (learned after moving there), cops driving by every hour, people frequently walking around trying to bum dollars and cigarettes and begging for rides…
BUT I do love cheap rent. Was an old converted house with really nice woodwork though the space was tiny. And neighbors wound up robbing me more than anywhere else I ever lived. ha Way more. Some of those little jackasses even broke into my truck, completely fucked my dashboard, and stole my stereo (on a rare occasion that I left the face on, dammit). Living there was like a social experiment. And I remained in that apartment for approximately 1.5 years.
Wonderful experience that was, and I say that in honesty for what all I gleaned living there from 2003-2004. For the record, I moved there for the cheap rent and because my Bangladeshi landlord let me pay in cash. Cash is king. But I had no real idea of where I was moving to and received my first wake-up call immediately after signing the lease when the cops pulled up a few houses down and got out and began chasing a man. The skycopter went over too, and I remember “Kahn” shrugging and muttering something about it not usually being this bad. That turned out to only be sorta true, but he tried warning me away from seeing that property after showing me one of his others, but I insisted. He lived on one side of the converted house and complained it was “too loud.” The bottom apartment was tiny but had hardwood floors and some old-fashioned charm, so I went with it. Nearby highway access, not far from campus, immediately available right when I was needing to get out on my own again. The stars lined up.
Turned out to be an interesting perch, both good and bad. I’d sit out on the porch and read and also planted a little garden that first year, so this provided an opportunity for me to actively meet and mingle with the locals and especially my neighbors and their kids, that porch serving as a little hangout for houses around. Discovered you had to chain down everything you didn’t want stolen, but there were good people around too. Lots of stories to tell there, but let’s pick up where CeCe moved in.
Pregnant and taking care of her sister’s two kids for the summer, she and I initially got along. For about two months she sat out on the porch and we all interacted and things were pleasant between us. Though during that time I did witness CeCe reacting violently to a mother across the street after the kids got into a disagreement, and CeCe punched her in the back of the head in the middle of the street. Yeah, and while she’s pregnant.
I didn’t usually say a whole lot to her, but I recall her niece playing with my hair and styling it up in pigtails that I wore out one night. All seemed fine until that fateful day (dun dun duuunnnn, ha) when she and her boyfriend came out on the porch and somewhere in there it got brought up that I’m originally from Mississippi, and that wound up opening a whole can of worms that I didn’t fully expect. Her boyfriend went into grilling me about my attitudes about Mississippi, and I basically stated that I’m not ashamed of where I come from, history acknowledged. This just didn’t sit well with them, and they got a bit irritated and hostile, suggesting I am a racist. Why? Because I won’t denounce the South, a place these people hadn’t even visited and really knew nothing about firsthand? Bullshit. I was polite but stood my ground, not appreciating people jumping to conclusions like that.
Then another fateful day came around when I wasn’t aware CeCe was in the vicinity, not that it mattered since what occurred was between me and a neighbor guy I know, joking around over something pertaining to the rebel flag, which I am not opposed to then or now. Wherever CeCe was, she claimed later to have seen me basically give a thumb’s up for a shirt he was wearing, and that was all the evidence she felt was necessary to determine that I am a black-hating racist scum of the earth. And for the next few months she behaved like a hellish bitch toward me.
The neighbors were all nervous of her and recognized how scrappy and hostile she was (she having punched another person in the neighborhood by then), so nobody wanted to stand up to her. Hell, I didn’t want to stand up to her and didn’t for a long time. She’s a scary mean bitch to be on the wrong side of, plus she ran with a huge mean bitch who’d love any excuse to fight. I tried explaining to her, but she tuned me out every time and barked insults at me, so there was no reasoning with this individual. Some people label a person like her a “hood rat,” and I believe she’d fit that bill. Just sayin’. Can’t reason with her, can’t avoid her since she and her asshole friends began populating the porch and blocking the way to my door, calling me out as a “whore” and making really lewd comments. It was pretty fucking humiliating, but if I paused to say something they’d just start in threatening me to keep going. If I tried to sit on my own porch to read, as I’d always done before, she’d bark at me to get my ass back in my apartment. She told her niece and nephew and sister and other family members that I was her racist neighbor, so they all stared me down with dirty looks. That shit went on for about 2 months.
During all of this she’s still pregnant, and I see her smoking and drinking and got the feeling she was doing something else upstairs based on the glossy look in her eyes. Don’t have proof, purely speculation on my part.
Also during that time her boyfriend got abusive late one night, put his foot through her television, threw shit downstairs, stole money from her, and was wrestling with her on the stairwell when I came outside. I called the police, and they took practically forever to show up, by which time he was long gone. She didn’t want to press charges, so they said they didn’t need my statement, but I had waited outside for the cops to show. CeCe and her big mean friend still acted coldly, but whatever. I felt it was the right thing to do at the time.
Then one night I was sitting out on the porch with the father of one of my other neighbor’s kids, talking about his progress in his AA program, and CeCe comes home and raises her eyebrow about me sitting out there. The man actually got up and decided to leave, but I just decided to stay seated by myself. It’s my porch technically according to the lease. So CeCe and her big bitch friend came back down and barked at me a bit like usual, telling me if I had any sense I’d go inside. But I just sat there on the concrete. Kept my voice calm and simply stated I had every right to be there and that I had never done anything to her. She and her friend kept on barking and cussing and threatening and pacing around me, and I’d just say “No CeCe, it’s not right.” By then they’re making a big production and bouncing around, saying they were going to beat me and leave me bleeding on that porch. To which I replied that that was fine, wish she wouldn’t but I can’t stop her. But when I wake up from unconsciousness I’m going to crawl over to the landlord and have him call the Law and have these women charged with assault, which would be a real pity for a pregnant woman, especially once the cops figure out she’s been drinking and has drugs in her system. That was the gist of it, spoken very calmly. Woooh! She went up in flames on that one, hands up in the air, screeching about how she doesn’t do drugs, rapid pacing/bouncing. It was pretty nerve-wracking, but I just sat there and looked at her and stated I would not hit a pregnant woman, so she’d just have to go ahead and beat my ass without me fighting back if that’s really what she wanted to do.
And would you believe she and her friend did back down and went upstairs? Surprised me a bit too, considering how violently she generally liked to behave. Despised me more than ever after that though, but thankfully she moved soon afterward. Had her sister cuss me out one more time before departing, but lord it was great when she moved on. What a complete and utter bitch. What kind of mother do you imagine she is now?
Why didn’t I call the Law for their threats and harassment? Well, because that frankly would have been foolish. That would have most certainly invited retaliation and toward the end there her guyfriends were making some seriously fucked-up sexual remarks to me. That group of people are destined for prison, and they probably belong there, because they are completely rabid assholes apparently incapable of being civil or rational or reasonable or just. They have chosen the road of serving nothing but their base desires. That’s really unfortunate, but I suppose I’m glad for the opportunity to get to observe that sort of reality right up-close and personal.
Having grown up more familiar with small town poverty, though rural and inner-city impoverished communities share many things in common they really are quite different too. The “concrete jungle” (as I call the inner-city) warps its inhabitants’ psychologies in ways unique all unto itself. People’s dependence tends to run deeper and the hostility feels motivated by a sense of being trapped like a bunch of animals crammed into a cage. ‘Course violence and crappy schools are a reality among both rural and inner-city poor communities — for as much as they share in common, each ‘camp’ deserves its own analysis.
If life is nothing else, it’s certainly educational. So I must count such experiences among my blessings for the insight and perspective they provide.
After CeCe moved away and then kept coming back around occasionally to socialize with people, her and her family staring me down the whole way, I finally said “fuck it” (for that and other personal reasons), packed up and moved across the river to an apartment of comparable price but in a working-class neighborhood with so much less drama and bullshit. But I came out of that “quasi-ghetto” (as I prefer to call it since the neighborhood to the north was even worse) experience with a little different way of looking at a lot of things. That period in time challenged some of the stereotypes while strengthening others, but I couldn’t have gleaned what I did from only reading about such places and people. It’s more complex than a sociology or social work textbook can make one aware of.
And that concludes my story of being bullied by a “hood rat.” ha