Black students' anger in integrated context
Jeter discusses her persistent anger as a high school student—she was angry with the system, with teachers and students, and even with her fellow black students, especially black boys who treated white girls with more respect than they treated black girls. Black boys' preference for white girlfriends may have influenced black girls' choices to straighten their hair and look to white fashion models for beauty cues.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Gloria Register Jeter, December 23, 2000. Interview K-0549. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
GRJ: No. Just as a person. But I didn’t have that sort of, I didn’t have that kind of relationship with ANYbody in high school. Not a teacher, not anybody. (pause) Hmmm-mm. And I was, I don’t know if, I mean, I remember in high school being so angry all the time. That was the most angry I think I have ever been in my life, I mean, you know sometimes you get angry, really angry, but it passes quickly. Where you get in a, traffic jam or something, and somebody toots their horn and you’re angry. But in two minutes you’ve forgotten about it. But I was angry the entire time I was in high school. I was angry with the system because, the system allowed these people to treat us poorly. My momma and daddy paid as much tax money from their salary as everybody else did. And their children should have been treated, as good as everybody else’s children. I was angry about that. I was angry at the individual people. I was angry at the black students. I was so mad with them I didn’t know what to do.
BG: Why were you angry at the black students?
GRJ: The boys, would, they always wanted to date the white girls. The black girls, they wanted to have sex with. So they treated you a different way than they would treat a white girl. And I was mad, oh gosh, I was mad about that. I mean I was just, angry at the whole thing. Now see, that’s, that’s not, I don’t know, I don’t know, I guess because it was newly integrated and, as black people we hadn’t socialized very much with white people, but [indistinguishable]. I think, in this society, when black people marry whites, they think they’re marrying up. And it doesn’t matter, who the white person is, so long as it’s a white person. Because if you think about OJ, he married that white woman who was just trashy. Now here he is, a man who had at least gone to college, I don’t know if he graduated, a professional athlete making, good money, traveled extensively, lots of experiences, and he picks up somebody who’s, ah, kind of walking the streets, and marries her and, puts her up on a pedestal like he’s done something good and wonderful, when he’s brought himself down. But that’s, I think that’s the way a lot of people view it.
BG: Do you think that the, white, female was, the, role model of what beauty was?
GRJ: Yes. Very definitely. I mean, when I went to high school, we ALL had long straight hair. We would, black women went to great pains, to straighten that hair. (laughs) I was looking in the scrapbook at home today, and I had long, straight hair, and I went to the beauty parlor and had my hair straightened, and I went to great lengths to keep it, straight. Because that was the, that was thing. When I was in high school, I got Seventeen magazine, and Twiggy, was the model of the (laughs) --
BG: And those were all white magazines.
BG: How about now? Are there black magazines for, beauty?
GRJ: Oh yeah, yeah. We got Essence. Well Ebony was there, but Ebony is not, strictly a beauty magazine. But Essence is like, the black beauty magazine. And that’s one of the things that I like about living now. When you walk into the, airport, you see black people with all kinds of hair. Some of them have hair like mine, some of them have straight hair, some of them have those dread locks, some of them got it planted, weaved, ALL kinds of hair, and I just think that’s, wonderful, that you can express yourself, in the way that YOU feel most comfortable, and not have it be a statement of, your politics. See the afro was a political statement. It did not say, “I’m wearing my hair in an afro because I think it’s beautiful,” no, it was a statement, “I’m wearing my hear in an afro because I’m black and I’m proud.” It was a political statement, not just, what, the best look on you, cause everybody doesn’t look good in an afro. But I guess we, drifted from the subject (laughs).
BG: This is all very interesting, but, ah. I wanted to ask you about the anger, whether the anger was a common emotion among the African American students in Chapel Hill High School.
GRJ: I think, I would have to say yes. I think people were angry, about the situation. And I think, I mean, it seems like I must be blocking and not remembering, things, because there must have been something rather specific that they did, to, to make us all so angry, but yes. We were very angry. And I think maybe the one thing that, that, caused the anger to start and to sort of seethe, was the fact that the school system said, “we are merging these two schools,” when in fact they, shut down Lincoln and sent the Lincoln students to Chapel Hill high school. They built that, they built that school for white students. And they closed Lincoln. And they just sent the black students to Chapel Hill high school, now they, and then they, what they should have done, they should have done that and not said anything. You know where you stand. But to say to me, “we are merging these two organizations,” why is, it’s a lie, they just told us a lie, and I think that’s, that, made us angry, and then, as you go to the school every day, and you see that lie perpetrated, then you’ve become a little more angry, and a little more angry, and then you begin to talk about it, and then it becomes like a fireball. (Pause)