Chapter 2 – Extract 9 from The Paradise Induction!
At my secondary school—a prestigious, huge red-brick private establishment for boys—four black guys in my year had taken to hurling insults at me daily.
I’d achieved a government paid-place to attend because my parents could never afford the fees, but because of the way I spoke, these black boys called me “posh” and “rich.” They would specifically joke about my haircuts; I never shaved my head as low as they did and they found this hilarious, branding me with that name—coconut. The title evolved to Bounty like the chocolate, leaving me even more baffled about these names. Ahmed Joseph, Jethro Godric-Beck, Jayden Ennin, and Marlon Noel couldn’t hold the joke private for long.
I was thirteen when they explained it amid hyena-pack laughter on the school grounds.
The four of them paused, holding their faces to control their chuckling.
Jethro put his hand on my shoulder. “You’re black on the outside and white on the inside, innit,” he said with a mock-sympathetic tone before the group of them burst into further fits of laughter; so that’s what it meant.
While in a Religious Studies class, as the teacher turned his back to write on the board, I asked Ahmed and Marlon about Jethro, who seemed to detest me even more than the others did.
“Can’t we all just get along?” I whispered to them at my side. “I mean, why does Jethro do it? Why does he keep bothering me all the time? I never did anything to him.”
I was met with an impossible answer; a titanium wall where you’re sealed in on all sides to endure, and die.
“Jethro just hates you,” said Ahmed.
They smiled and then released a torrent of chuckling.
For six years, they would continue ripping on me – mainly for my haircuts, the way I spoke, and for not being ‘black’ enough.
At fifteen years old, a holiday on an American cruise liner in Florida showed there was no international exemption; black people in the States were just the same.
Making friends with a group of guys on the ship, two guys within the group interrogated me about ‘chatting-up’ girls as we sat in the lobby of the opulent-looking cruise-liner.
I had no confidence in myself…none at all. I didn’t know how to talk to girls, but that offered me no mercy.
“Where’s your game England? Where’s your game?” two of the guys said. They’d nicknamed me England because of my voice. Pointing at me and referencing the fact that I didn’t know how to talk to girls, they began to go around the circle of guys present.
“Don’s got game. Eric’s got game. Rick’s got game. Even your little brother’s got game. But where’s your game England? Where’s your game?”
All the guys were black, Rick was English, and my brother had managed to dodge the assault. So what made me special? Why did they choose me? What had I done?