Tag Archives: Betty Shabazz

Son Selected for African-American Leadership Group in Middle School

8-30-2009 051

My wife called me this evening and told me our son came home from school with a letter saying he had been selected for the African American leadership group. I laughed. My wife laughed. I asked her if she could tell by reading the letter if they understood that he’s white. She said she didn’t think they understood. She wondered if it was because she listed us as a multi-ethnic family, which I am not even sure what that means. My family is Arabic and hunky. Her folks are from Texas. We joke that the kids are Texa-hunkies.

I think it is my name, Elhajj.

I used to have this certain kind of experience in school. I went to the City University of New York in the early 90s. I also worked at the school’s administrative offices. I remember Betty Shabazz taught at Medgar Evers College and was basically treated like royalty. My name tends to stand out, especially in an organization with a huge focus on multiculturalism, which was at its height in the early 90s. Occasionally I would come to a meeting with university people and I would find someone in a big dashiki and would introduce myself and their face would fall with disappointment and they would be like, “YOU. YOU’RE ELHAJJ?!”

So this middle school thing just made me laugh.

This is his first year at the school. I imagine they are not looking too closely at the people they select. But, who knows? Here in the Pacific Northwest every one is very PC and there are just are not that many black people.

I went to a school function a few years back and was looking for one of the fathers, but I didn’t realize he was a black man. I kept asking the other parents (who I didn’t know all that well) if they knew where I could find this man and nobody would tell me he was black, which would have greatly simplified spotting him. Instead people got all nervous and were like, Ohhh, he’s about 6’4″, ah… humm.

Where I grew up people would not think twice about saying, “He’s the tall black man.”
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