South Bay

Angry and black in PV Estates

Jennifer Baszile, a professor of history at Yale, has written a memoir called "The Black Girl Next Door" that doesn't reflect kindly on her upbringing as an African American girl in white Palos Verdes Estates. From a review in Sunday's New York Times:

The Basziles’ experience in Palos Verdes Estates is a story for the ostensibly post-racial Obama era: the tale of an upper-middle-class African-American family striving to get ahead while sensing that it is somehow at the same time too black and not nearly black enough. It’s a story about class as much as about race, and about the elusive, sometimes almost spectral limits of segregation.

The Basziles’ arrival in Palos Verdes Estates was met with limited if nonetheless ugly resistance. Some boys scrawl a racial epithet on the family’s front walk and paint a cherub in the family’s front yard fountain black. The Basziles fight back, calling in the F.B.I. and hanging a newspaper clipping about the epithet on their mailbox with a sign that declared: “These Are Your Neighbors.”

The family eventually settles in, more or less happily, and “The Black Girl Next Door” becomes a chronicle of Ms. Baszile’s school years and a hashing out of dozens of smaller, if no less hurtful, slights and rejections: white kids wanting to fight her; white boys not dancing with her or not asking her out on dates; a general gnawing feeling that she does not belong and is not fully accepted.

Her father wasn't much help, she writes: "I don’t think he realized that my California girlhood had instilled as much rage in me as his Louisiana boyhood had instilled in him." First chapter

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