by Sistah Shoop


Though the memory was no longer in color, vagueness had not yet begun to sit in.

It happened and it happened a long long time ago for Sistah Shoop.

She had looked back and stood with many recollections of what she thought defined her.  She looked at what was given credence for who she was today.  But she over looked a small pivotal point in time that explained much about the questions she always asked herself.  It panned a light on a subject that Sistah Shoop never fully understood until now.

In 1968, she was thirteen years of age.  She was an idealistic teenager, as all were and she knew in someway that the world was her stage.  It would have never occurred to the young Shoop that anything would ever get in the way of her life.  It would never have occurred to her that there would be something that would keep her from interacting with everyone else.

She remembered getting off the bus along with seventy other kids.  It was a hot sweltering day and what else could you do with so many kids but take them swimming?  Young Shoop stood in line.  Her fifty cents held in her hand, as the smile on her face displayed the joy of youth and the happiness of just being alive.  The words she shared with those who stood in line around her spoke to the contentment she was made of.

She stepped up to the window, placing her quarters on the ledge.  The woman inside looked down at the brown hand that moved away from the surrendered coins, and then down to the face of innocence.  The smile the woman sported fading when their eyes met.  The woman spoke to the young girl without reservation, without hesitancy, “You can’t swim here.”

The words were confusing for young Shoop.  She had no idea of what the woman in the booth was talking about.  She backed up and just stood, watching as the other kids stepped up and put their money down, and were then allowed access to the pool.  Some looked back at her wondering why.  No one, not even her closest friend stepped out of line to stand with her.  No one stepped beyond himself or herself because something was wrong.  Entitlement was not a word any of them knew at that age.  It was simply an understanding.

It was only days ago that Sistah Shoop remembered this.  And it was then that she knew why she never felt a part of anything.  It explained why she never felt a part of anyone’s life.  How could she?  There were always places they could go that she could not.  And what had grown from that is that there were always things or friendships they could have that she could not.  It was in her youth where she learned fully what the word entitlement meant.  It was today when she understood the meaning she had placed on exclusivity.

Sistah Shoop chuckled to herself at identifying her set-up.  She laughed at herself for seeing how the pay-off had benefited her through all these years.  It made her right in that her friends would never extend themselves beyond their own needs.  And to this very day she was absolutely right that they would never risk their own rite of exclusivity to stand by her and they hadn’t really.  Her reality told her that white folks found it easier, simpler to be with white folks.  It showed her that the risk of understanding, that the invitation of truly knowing, the gratification of wholly loving was simply too big when weighed against natural born entitlement.  It wasn’t about not being accepted into the country club any longer.  It was more about the exclusion out of what life might have to offer, she figured.

In 1968, she stood silently in her inequity.  She wanted not to have people think any less of her for having not been allowed, for having not been acceptable, and for not being entitled.  She did not want her friends to miss out on the fun they all sought.  Quietly she walked back to the bus, put her street clothes back on and waited.  She waited for them to return and she waited for the world to change.

Sistah Shoop knew that even today being told "No without judgment" most times still meant, "you can't swim here"...  so she would continue to wait, as she did in 1968, for a day without judgment.


Shoop 2003/01


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