Communication Studies at Edmonds Community College
Josh was still upset at Franklin's outburst in class. Franklin, an older student in Josh's history class, had said that no one there knew the true history of America and he had looked right at Josh - for a long time.
Josh was used to that stare. He usually saw it from white people and other blacks who thought he was too young, too much of a punk, or, somehow, less than them. Franklin had said, "We need to study our real history." That's when he stared at Josh and continued, "You young Black men need to know your place in life." That's when Josh jumped at him. "I know my place. I've lived my whole life learning my place. And my place is NOT at this White Guy table. I know I'm not white. Do you? Who are you to be tellin' me what my place is? Just because you lived in the 60s. MY mother told me all about how her mother could only work bringing up other people's kids. And now my mother works at the school district. So don't tell me that I don't know my place." Franklin just looked at him again - with a small smile on his face.
Josh hadn't meant to speak up like that in class. Whenever he saw the look, he tried to just walk away - if he could. But today, that look from Franklin bothered him. He had been ready to walk away or to put that old man down - but something stopped him. Franklin was different. When he stared at Josh, he seemed to look beyond Josh, inside Josh.
What Josh hadn't said in class was that he wasn't sure what to think of his mothers job. It was true. She did like her job and she did work at the school district, but as a classroom aid. She had a college degree and teaching certificate, too. But she would never be a teacher like she'd always wanted. It seemed to him that she was still raising other people's kids just like her mother had. Some days he just wished she would stand up for herself and stop being so patient with "the way things are". It wasn't right the way she was treated. She has been passed over year after year for raises and promotions. Josh didn't want to end up like that.
Josh was born in Texas. In fact, "Texas" was his street name because he still had a bit of an accent. His friends called him "TJ" for "Texas Josh". They moved to Tacoma when he was 12, so his father could look for work. His brother had moved up to live with them after he lost his job in the oil fields. All of them, Josh and his brother, his sister, and their parents had lived with his Uncle Doug for as long as they could all stand it. They moved out as soon as John' mother got her job with the state. His dad finally got on at the Army base nearby and he was so busy that he was hardly ever home. One day he just stopped coming home at all.
His mother wasn't very happy about some of his friends - he had to admit, he wouldn't want them hanging around his littler sister. But his friends were the ones he could learn from -he needed to know how to get along in the world - with girls, with whites, with old black guys - like Franklin. Clearly his parents' ways hadn't worked out. And he wasn't any good at sports. What a stupid stereotype that was! So he had to learn his own way out. His friends helped him find work when he needed it, they introduced him around, and they had bailed him out of a couple of tough situations at school. He owed them. And they knew it.
Josh thought about quitting school every time he got a grade back. He was interested in school - particularly this history class. Even Franklin - some of what he said----. But school just seemed like such a waste. Even when Franklin said "Education is everything. You can't stop now." Josh argued with him:" That's just it. It's the one thing I can do. But where will this degree get me?" Not even Franklin could answer this question. Josh's friends weren't really into school and they seemed to know how to get more than their age, color or education should have allowed. He knew they would always be there for him.
Sometimes Josh was uncomfortable with the choices he had made. He tried to keep the big picture in mind. If he was ever going to help his family, he might have to do some tough things himself. But that stare from Franklin - it was like that man knew!