We all laughed at that. The gym building was at least three times the size of our school’s gym with freshly glazed wooden bleachers lining either side of the court. We could tell that their scoreboard was brand new and its lights were bright and clear. The lines on the floor were solid and not peeling off and they even had an announcer’s box high above our heads from which they could monitor the game. We were a bunch of black kids from the city in the middle of a rich white suburb and were in awe of their gymnasium.

By Jamillia Greene

It was winter and cold, as it usually was during our basketball season. We got off the moderately warm bus, walked through the frigid night air and then entered the warm, chlorine scented, humid gym building of Calvin Christian School. It was beautiful and modern of course.

“Wow,” said one of the girls. “I wish we had a scoreboard that actually worked like their’s does.”

We all laughed at that. The gym building was at least three times the size of our school’s gym with freshly glazed wooden bleachers lining either side of the court. We could tell that their scoreboard was brand new and its lights were bright and clear. The lines on the floor were solid and not peeling off and they even had an announcer’s box high above our heads from which they could monitor the game. We were a bunch of black kids from the city in the middle of a rich white suburb and were in awe of their gymnasium.

“Move along girls,” our coach, Ms. Bee said to us in a slightly authoritarian tone. She was wearing a bright orange jogging suit under her coat which made her look like a popsicle. “You have to change quickly. We’re going to be playing first tonight, before the boy’s team.”

We were ushered through the schools hallways and passed several glass cases filled with all kinds of sport’s trophies. Our school hadn’t won anything in about fifty years and it didn’t look like we would be winning anything for a hundred more. Our girl’s basketball team lost almost every game. The only games we won were against the handicap school. We played because there was nothing better to do after school. And according to society, the only sport black people play is basketball. So we played basketball.

We finally reached the locker room and began changing. Ms. Bee left us to go talk to the officials about something. Then the girls started talking.

“You know they got money out here,” quipped Shaquita with her side ponytail. She was one of the best players on the team and was blossoming early into womanhood. She probably considered herself to be the team captain and would constantly tease me for missing shots. In school, she also called me a nerd for reading science fiction stories and quoting scientific facts. I didn’t like her very much. “They got a nice gym and locker rooms and everything,” she continued. “Why we gotta change in our classrooms?”

“I know right,” agreed Marquita, another one of the good players on the team. She was tall and bulky and her hair was broken off from using too much relaxer. She had also decided not to like me when our teacher announced to the whole class that I got a perfect score on my black history paper. From that point on, she made fun of me every time I got an ‘A’ on anything.

“I bet they be all afraid of coming to our school too. They’re probably all like…” Shaquita continued in her white girl voice, “‘Oh my god Becky. We have to go to that school in the ghetto. I hope we don’t get shot.’”

Laughter again. I even chuckled a little too. Our school was actually in the ghetto. Although it was a private Christian school, it was located in one of the roughest neighborhoods in the city. Drug dealers and gang members were always in the streets. However, we never really had any problems with them. We also had more money and resources than the public school kids, which we made fun of them for. But when it came to all the rich white suburban school we visited, we were poor in comparison.

At one of our previous home games a few weeks prior, Shaquita overheard two white girls from another team complaining about our school to her coach.

“This is ridiculous,” one of the girls had said. “They don’t even have a locker room. We have to change in their equipment closet!”

don’t know why we even have to come here for games.”

This infuriated Shaquita and she told our whole team what they had said. She even managed to trip one of the two complainers during the game and got a technical foul. Since then she’s always held a grudge against the white schools.

Ms. Bee came back in and told us to hurry up and get on the court. We finished putting on our royal blue uniforms and left the locker room.

The bleachers were about half full when we finally came back into the gym, the other team was warming up. The white girls were stretching, running passing drills and practicing lay-ups all with precision. We were getting ready to do the same when we saw her. The one black girl on the other team. She had a pony tail with a purple scrunchie and wore the white uniform of our supposed enemy. The girls on my team began to snarl.

Shaquita pointed at her. “Ugh, look at that oreo. She’s so ugly and has a big forehead.”

“I know. And I bet she thinks she’s better than us,” said Sharon as she put her hands on her hips. She was also one of the better players on the team and looked like a short brown freckled doll with sand colored skin.

“I bet she’s a bitch too,” said Marquita while rolling her neck.

“Yeah,” agreed most of the other girls on my team.

I didn’t say anything. I didn’t really think anything was wrong with the other girl and I thought the girls on my team were being mean. I frowned and just ignored them and decided to stare at the pretty scoreboard.

This prompted Sharon to say, “What she doing staring at the scoreboard like that? She crazy.”

Marquita replied, “She’s probably thinking about some exploding isotopes or something stupid.”

Everyone laughed. I kept starring.

Shaquita then gathered everyone together for a quick meeting before it began.

“Hey, let’s teach that oreo a lesson. Every time you’re guarding her, call her Forehead. That’ll teach her to think that she’s better than us.”

“Yeah, maybe that’ll make her swollen head swell down a bit,” said Marquita sucking her teeth.

“Yeah!”

“Yeah!”

“Yeah!” replied the rest of the team.

They all laughed. I didn’t. The girl did have a slightly large forehead, but I certainly wasn’t going to make fun of her for it. I wore a size eleven shoe, which was big for a girl, and constantly got teased about that too. And I certainly didn’t think that she thought she was better than us. We hadn’t even talked to her. So I folded my arms, looking indignant only to myself and decided that I wasn’t going to do it. Not that I would be getting much play time anyway. I was a bench warmer. But when I was on the court for the last two minutes of the game, I wasn’t going to say anything.

The game started. Marquita, Shaquita and Sharon trotted on to the court with two other girls from our team. The black girl on the other team was starting as well. I sat on the bench and wondered if they were actually going to go through with calling her names.

The game went on for a couple minutes without any incident. But then I saw Shaquita guarding the black girl from the other team. I saw her lips move, but couldn’t hear what she was saying. However, judging by the look on the other girl’s face, she had said something shocking. The other girl seemed to shrug it off and kept on playing. She dribbled to the basket and made a lay-up as if in defiance to what Shaquita had said to her. By the looks on their faces, I could tell that the girls on my team were not too pleased.

The next time Shaquita was guarding the girl, I saw Shaquita’s mouth form and “o”. My eyebrows went up. She must have just called her an oreo, I thought. The girl on the other team looked mad, but didn’t say anything and kept playing. By this time, my teammates started to pick up on Shaquita’s lead. At one end of the court I saw a girl mouth “oreo” as she tried to steal the ball from her. On the other end of the court I saw another mouthing “forehead” or “ugly” as she was trying to make a shot. Eventually they began saying other words that I couldn’t make out every time they were near her. They were laughing with each other every time they said something and were slapping each other on the shoulder each time. I wondered why the referee wasn’t doing anything about this. But when I looked over at him, I saw that he was about seventy-five with a bushy white mustache. ‘He must be deaf,’ I thought. By the end of the first half, the black girl looked like she was going to cry, and ran off the court to the locker room.

We had returned to our locker room and listened to Ms. Bee give us a pep talk about how we needed to pick up our games. We were down thirty to four. Finally she left to go talk to the other adults in the gym about whatever adults talk about.

As soon as she was gone, the girls all started laughing and talking about how they made the black girl on the other team cry.

“What a crybaby. She’s such a lame,” said Shaquita satisfied.

“I know!” agreed Marquita.

“We got her reeeaaaaal good,” said Sharon. “I bet she doesn’t think she’s the stuff anymore.

I opened my mouth to say something, but chickened out. I didn’t want to get made fun of for defending the girl. I already got teased enough by them. I shuddered feeling sudden tears push at the back of my eyes. I fought them off and undid my shoelaces again and retied them, pretending not to listen. ‘Why were they always making fun of people? It is mean and not fair,’ I thought.

When we went out of the locker room to get some water from the fountain, the black girl from the other team was standing out there as well, with a few other teammates around her. Her eyes were red from crying and her white teammates were trying to console her. They didn’t seem to know why

She was crying since they kept asking her what was wrong. Apparently, she wasn’t answering.

I wanted to be as far away from them as I possibly could. I began to shake all over and wanted to punch Shaquita in the face. I felt like there was a chasm larger than the Grand Canyon separating me from my teammates. I realized then that the chasm had always been there. I was just able to see it clearly at that moment.

When the black girl saw us, her face grew as red as her dark skin could possibly show. She was angry, very angry and she came over in our directions.

She began yelling with tears rolling down her face, “I hate you. I hate you all. Just leave me alone.” She started sobbing hard again, turned and ran down the hallway.

Her teammates looked shocked and confused with their pale faces awash in ignorance. My teammates started laughing. I couldn’t take it anymore. I started walking briskly down the hall after the other girl.

“Where are you going goofy?” asked Sharon after me.

I didn’t reply. I let my indignant fervor push me on a wave of frustration down the hall.

I heard the other girls behind me start talking about me.

“Ugh she’s such a weirdo.”

“She must want to be white too.”

“I know. You saw how she never said nothing about that oreo.”

“She probably thinks she’s better than us too.”

I rolled my eyes at the chorus of harpy voices and kept walking. After some searching, I found the girl in the corner by the lockers of an empty dark hallway, sitting on the ground and sobbing. I walked over to her slowly, not wanting to startle her.

In a timid, quiet voice I said, “I’m sorry… I’m sorry that they said those things to you.”

She didn’t look up. She just kept crying. “Yeah right. I bet you think like they do too,” she said in a whispered yell.

“No, that’s not true. They call me an oreo too sometimes, because I get better grades than them and like different kinds of things. It used to hurt my feelings. Well… it still does. But now… I just try to ignore them. You should ignore them too.  I’m not like them and don’t want to be like them. I don’t think you’re an oreo.”

She looked up at me then and I sat down next to her.

“So, they really call you an oreo too?” she asked while wiping her eyes.

“Yep,” I replied.

“That’s mean. You don’t even go to a white school.”

“Yep, it’s mean all around. Both for me and you.”

She had stopped crying. “Thanks for coming to talk to me.”

I hugged her and sat with her until our coaches came looking for us.

On the bus ride back home, no one was talking to me. They were all talking about me though in loud whispers, so that I would hear what they were saying.

“Such an oreo.”

“She’s so stuck up.”

“Loser.”

“Let’s not talk to her for the rest of the year.”

“She must be gay or something and loves that girl.”

I just sat quietly waiting for the trip to be over. My kindred spirit and I didn’t tell our coaches what had happened. We wanted to keep our bond to ourselves. I also didn’t want my teammates even madder at me for getting them in trouble. My coach still suspected something though and asked me lots of questions, but she had no proof and no one tattled.

I hugged my new friend again before we departed from Calvin Christian School and exchanged numbers. This drew snickers from the girls on my team. We parted from each other somewhat

It was the longest bus ride ever on the way back to the city, but it was also my proudest.