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Our Differences

changing18's picture

I have a friend.  One who has always been involved in my life and continues to. Yet after I went to boarding school and she stayed in the inner city I started to notice some changes. One day in particular stands out when I became aware that those changes shaped us as different individuals. June Jordan’s “Report from the Bahamas, 1982” portrays a narrator who feels distant from others who outwardly seem similar to her.  Her identity, although has comparable aspects to those she encounters on her vacation (her skin color), is made up of her own experiences and makes her different from those she encounters on this trip to the Bahamas. Through explaining my own story/experience I can connect to the story June Jordan has told.

            It was a cold morning and the ground was already layered with dirtied snow from the previous day yet a sun cheered up the day.  My friend and I had plans to meet later that day so I went on with my routine of getting ready.  One that probably resembles many others of thinking about what I am going to where, trying one on, not being satisfied, then trying another, and the cycle continues until I am content. After eating breakfast, I had out to her house. As I drive along the road in the car, I see mostly black men and women heading out for their day bundled in their coats. This has me think back to my new lifestyle of living at boarding school where a majority white institution prevails. Boarding school includes a much different population than I grew up with. Once I arrive at my friends government- subsidized housing aka “the projects” many memories come flooding back of our joy and innocence that we shared in elementary and middle school.  Broken bottles and graffiti liter the outside sidewalk, but this was nothing new.  I just was now more aware of it.  Finally my friend and I reunite with so much to catch up on. As our conversations continue I realized our language was different.  After catching up, we head to the kitchen and I am offered Cheetos, honeybuns, or orange soda. They hadn’t gotten new groceries because they hadn’t received their check yet she explained.  I noticed my accessibility to food was different.  I took some orange soda, and headed to the living room where she put the TV on but only very few channels were available because they did not have cable. All the things I had now noticed because of my new awareness of what I had been taught in boarding school about low-income neighborhoods and other structural hierarchy all became real. But what could have possibly made me so different?  I had always lived in the same town and did not live close to rich either, so what was this that was experiencing? Privilege.

            Privilege comes in all different forms.  I am still a black and latina woman living in inner city Newark, New Jersey. I am far from a high economic status and come from a single parent household.  The privilege I experience is in my level of education.  Boarding school taught all these issues of class and race from an outside and general point of view.  When I came face to face with how my friend’s level of education and class made us different, it became clear to me that I neither fit in this particular black community in my hometown with ease anymore nor would I consider myself very well off in my boarding school community. Not being able to connect to those with similar identities as you is difficult.

My experience aligns with what I believe Jordan’s argument to be which is that her privilege has allowed her to take these vacations although stereotypes of her skin color may marginalize her, other aspects of her identity is what makes her so different from others of the same race.  The narrator’s socio-economic class has allowed her opportunities that are different from other black women she encountered in the Bahamas.  I felt that Jordan and I seem to have somewhat similar identities based on the assumption that she had a good education because had been teaching contemporary women’s poetry and is of a higher economic status. For these reasons Jordan had been different than these poor black women in the Bahamas.

Jordan says, “This is my consciousness of race, class, and gender identity as I notice the fixed relations between these other Black women and myself.”[1] I agree full- heartedly that my own consciousness through my own experience allows for me to notice the fixed relations between not only other black women but also many other kinds of people who share identities similar to my own.  The disconnections between one person to the next I believe is lived through how our experiences have shaped our identity.  June Jordan’s flashbacks throughout the story show us more about who she is through her own experiences and give readers a better understanding of why she thinks and acts the way she does.


“Yes: race and class and gender remain as real as the weather. But what they must mean about the contact between two individuals is less obvious and, like the weather, not predictable.”