Give Me the Gun, Carlton | Lessons in Masculinity and Loss from the Fresh Prince
I got in one little fight, and my mom got scared.”
— Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, opening credits
They surround me on the corner of Western and Orange, a few feet from where I go to high school. It’s late afternoon, a gray, blank sky just beginning to seep blue. I have my younger brother’s iPod shuffle with me. I must have misplaced mine.
Four brown apparitions: Chicanos like me, and yet —
I remember their shapes, mostly. Three thin and tall, the last heavy on a bright red Beach Cruiser, a lit blunt loose in his left hand.
“Pocket check, homie.”
What insecurities grow out of being a victim of random “street” violence? For me, there were a set of somewhat perverse questions, beginning with: When did they decide to jump me? Was it after I made that sharp left turn out of Twila Reid Park and into Orange Street? Or had it been earlier, when I jogged into the men’s room to take a clumsy piss, not remaining still long enough even to aim squarely into the steel, open-mouthed urinal?
And did it have anything to do with my light(er) skin? Could they tell I was brown, like them? Did it have something to do with the way I walked, ran? Did they read into the steady motion of my limbs and back, in my faraway gaze, an effeminacy, a weakness? Did it have anything to do with me? Did one brown body say to another, “No mames guey, you’re full of shit. You can’t even take a white boy like him.”
As I experienced it, the assault on my body was also an assault on the tenuous identity I had fashioned for myself. What kind of (brown) man am I to be taken down like this? On Facebook, I struck a pose of bravado and obscured what had physically happened to me:
four big ass guys came at me earlier today. Tried to take my lil brother’s ipod. Used my wrestling moves and got away (:
Looking back, I can trace the root of my insecurities to more general anxieties about performing gender and racial identity. Too sensitive to play “macho”, too white too play “brown”, too poor to play “white”: where could I look to find my rendition of masculinity reflected back at me?
Read more on the "Annex | Cultural Dispatches from UC Berkeley" website