35. The Black Girl Next Door

A Memoir
by Jennifer Baszile
Having grown up in the Chocolate City, and gone to predominately Black schools from preschool through college.  The only time I would see White people was on television or maybe at the mall. So, I don’t have any experience being the “other”.  I have always been surrounded by “my own” and the comfort that comes with it.
Jennifer’s story is much different than mine.  When her family moved to the predominately White, upper middle-class suburb of  Palos Verdes, California, she literally became The Black Girl Next Door.  Her parents want for their children what most parents do: to have a better life and opportunities than they did.  Jennifer spent much of the first 18 years of her life trying to fit into a world that wasn’t necessarily made for her – wanting to portray Harriet Tubman for a school function when the less controversial Rosa Parks is forced upon her; wanting a makeover for a school dance and having the counter lady (who obviously has no experience with dark skin) turn you into a clown; having to have “appropriate” Black boys imported in just to have a social life.  While she has to work hard to assimilate, her parents also expect her to retain some sort of Blackness and follow rules that are never quite spelled out for her.

I found this to be a great memoir, especially near the end of Jennifer’s high school career when an event at home kind of explodes.  Consquently, she becomes more aware of her personal power and just more of herself, period.  The fact that I came of age and could recognize a lot of the cultural references made it that much more wonderful.

8 thoughts on “35. The Black Girl Next Door

  1. Sounds great. I remember a black girl friend of mine came over once and I was watching that show “Picket Fences.” She thought it was stupid because there was apparently only one black family in the town. I told her that was almost exactly the case in the town I'd grown up in. I don't think she believed me.

  2. She must have been from some major urban area. I'm like that sometimes with tv shows, too, except it usually ones set in large cities. Really Seinfeld & Friends? You never came across any black people? In NYC?

  3. I always wondered about that w/Seinfeld and Friends! But then I saw an interview w/Chappelle and he said he knows plenty of people in D.C. who have never even seen a real, live white person except on tv. It boggles my brain. I'm so glad we live in at least an ethnically diverse if not economically diverse area, so my daughter isn't as sheltered.

  4. Instead of trying to assimilate into white culture her family should have taught her to be proud of her own. This way she would have avoided the conflict. This is a problem with too many people…wanting to “fit in” and “be accepted”…but the “other people next door” feel no need of assimilating into the “other's world”. Why give one race so much power in defining who and what you are.

    Books like this-no offense-make me sick. “Feel sorry for me” or “I'm so special because I grew up around…”

    Blah, blah, blah….

    And oh yeah…I don't believe there's a black person in the USA that's never seen an actual white person.

    Keep it real.

  5. Callie, her parents did make sure that they were proud of who they were and where they came from. However, in their quest to provide better educational opportunities for their children, they also provided them with a certain isolation.
    And I can assure you that this book is not written from a “victim” perspective. I don't read stuff like that.
    I can guarantee you that in my neighborhood in DC during the late '60's & 70's, you could go quite a while without seeing anything but Black people.

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