Redneck Women Into Black MenbySamuelx©
They say that the apple never falls far from the tree. I don't think that's always true. Take me for example. Everyone in my family is dark-haired and squad but somehow I came out...Teutonic. I'm five-foot-eleven, slim and fit but with curves where it counts. I have shoulder-length strawberry blonde hair and lime-green eyes. I was born in the City of Calgary, Alberta, to a redneck family. Gun-toting, Bible-thumping and xenophobic. By all rights I should be deeply afraid of and hostile to anyone who isn't pure white bread and close-minded, right? I hate to burst your bubble but that's not who I am. Not anymore. The name is Rebecca Gorman and I am a young woman with a story to tell.
When I opted to study at Carleton University in the City of Ottawa, Ontario, I surprised a lot of folks back home. My father, Samuel Gorman studied business management at the University of Calgary in the 1980s, hell, it's where he met my mother, University of Alberta adjunct professor and oilman's daughter Samantha Tremblay. My older brother Sean works for an oil company, my younger brother Arthur works at the local prison as a corrections officer and my older sister Janice studies nursing at the University of Alberta. It's where I was expected to go, but I opted out.
Why did I do such a thing, you may ask? I guess I was tired of life in the Prairies and wanted to explore other places. I've lived my whole life in Alberta and honestly, I was getting bored of the place. I wanted to spread my wings and fly over, as it were. Ontario has always mystified me, partly because folks from Alberta really don't like it. While many of us Albertans are fairly decent and open-minded folks, a sizeable number among us hate and fear anyone from the outside world. By outside I mean of non-European extraction, if you catch my drift.
You should have seen my father's face the night the City of Calgary elected a Muslim guy named Naheed Nenshi to its Mayoralty. The frigging Muslims want to take over Canada and this bozo is part of their scheme, Pops swore. I bet he's going to try to introduce Sharia Law in Alberta, my mother chimed in. You can see where I'm going with this, right? My parents, like many Albertans, have worked in the oil and gas industry their whole lives and are conservative-minded. The election of a visible minority candidate to the position of Mayor in one of Canada's most conservative cities surprised many, in Alberta and beyond.
At the time, I'm ashamed to say, I was just like my parents. I was deathly afraid of the Muslim invasion of Canada. I saw the growing presence of Arabs and Somalis in metropolitan Calgary as a threat. I was a gun-toting redneck's daughter, through and true. And then I moved to the City of Ottawa, Ontario, and enrolled at Carleton University. That's where I met Omar Haile, a six-foot-tall, ruggedly handsome young man of Ethiopian and Lebanese descent. We were stuck working together on a project for my Intro to Civil Engineering Class. At first, I was reluctant to work with the tall, light-skinned black dude with the easy smile and wide eyes. With a name like Omar, I thought he had to be Muslim. Later, I would learn that the handsome young man I viewed as a visible minority/Muslim invader was born and raised in the City of Toronto, Ontario, to a Lebanese Christian mother and Ethiopian Orthodox father. This proves the depth of my ignorance.
Sometimes, life throws you into odd places, outside of your comfort zone, mainly because it's trying to teach you a thing or two. I tried everything to get out of working with Omar Haile on my first project as a first-year student in the civil engineering program at Carleton University. Unfortunately, none of my lame, half-assed excuses worked on the prof and I found out that I was stuck with Omar Haile as my lab partner. Just do it and get it over with, I told myself. So I put a fake smile on and went to meet with Omar at the university library's second floor to discuss the project. The dude proved to be quite different from what I expected. According to my limited and totally biased sense of perception, black guys were supposed to be loud, arrogant and cocky. They weren't supposed to be smart, sensitive and oh so polite.
The first time I went to meet with Omar Haile at the library, I expected him to come dressed like a wannabe rapper/thug/baller with his pants hanging low and gold teeth in his mouth. I'm sorry but that's all I saw on TV. We don't have a lot of black people in Calgary. They're mostly immigrants from places like Jamaica, the island of Haiti, Nigeria and Somalia, and I often heard about young black men clashing with the police in Calgary. I assumed that's how all black people were, prone to angry outbursts and troublemaking. Until I sat down with Omar Haile, who carried himself like a gentleman, dressed professionally, and spoke perfect English. In spite of myself, I was both surprised and impressed.
As we began working on the project together, I learned a bit more about Omar. The tall and ( I must say ) handsome young black man spoke fondly of his multiracial family, and his old life in Toronto. I was surprised to find out that his father Emmanuel Haile, an immigrant from Ethiopia, is a Constable with the Toronto Police Service. His mother, Amanda Abdullah of Baalbek, south Lebanon, is a schoolteacher. He has an older brother, Joseph Haile, who's a corporal in the Canadian Armed Forces currently stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan. I marveled at the pictures he showed me. Him and his family at the Orthodox church they attended, at the beach and at backyard barbecues. They were so...normal. Slowly, my opinion of Omar Haile began to change. I began to warm up to him. Now, I wasn't ready to become one of those white chicks who goes to Africa, holds hands with the locals and sings "Kumbaya" but I was okay with becoming friends with Omar Haile. A handsome, well-read and well-spoken, pious renaissance man who simply happens to be black. Well, half black anyways.
When Omar Haile asked me to visit his church one Sunday, I accepted. I was raised Catholic and I am damn proud of my Christian faith. I think all immigrants coming into Canada should respect our Christian faith and our democratic values. I support the Quebec Values Charter by the way. I don't think public servants should wear turbans, hijabs or ceremonial gear while on the job. The Canadian workplace is a secular environment. Keep your religion and your other crap in your mosque or temple where it belongs. That's how I felt. To my surprise, when the subject of religion came up, Omar told me he strongly approved of Quebec's defense of the Judeo-Christian nature of their province and the secularism of the Canadian workplace. Muslims refuse to integrate and will corrupt any nation from within if given the chance, Omar told me.
I was surprised when Omar said that to me as we rode the OC Transpo bus on our way to his church. I thought all visible minorities agreed with Islam and wanted to bring Canada down from within. I had forgotten that many immigrants from Africa and other parts of the world are proud Christians and many of them would stand with Canada's Christians and Jews if bozos with names like Ahmed, Qadir and Mohammed went crazy on us like they have on those poor people at the Westgate Mall in the Kenyan capital. Are all Muslims terrorists? Absolutely not. However, most notorious terrorists are Muslims. See how that works?
That's part of the reason why I liked hanging out with Omar so much. I was happy to be hanging out with someone who saw things my way. And the fact that Omar Haile is a minority guy who sees the light and agrees with conservative values appeals to me immensely. Maybe the conservative party of Canada should recruit more visible minority types. That way the liberals and blasted NDP can't call us racist. At Omar Haile's church, I experienced a life-changing moment. The church was surprisingly diverse and the people were so friendly. I'd say that thirty percent of the church was a mixture of Asians, Euro-Canadians, Arabs and others. Blacks, the preacher included, made up the majority but other people made up a significant portion of the church. I wasn't expecting that.
The preacher was a tall black dude with a booming voice. He asked all the newcomers to the church to stand up and I was the only one that day. I got hugs and a standing ovation as everyone around me wished me a warm welcome. I wasn't expecting that. I was quite moved by these people, whom I once viewed so negatively. I'm a white woman in a black church. I'm made welcome even though I shouldn't belong. A black man in a white church wouldn't be made half as welcome as I was. Nobody asked me any weird questions. Welcome to God's house, that's what they told me over and over. In spite of myself, I was moved to tears. I was wrong about black people. They're among the kindest, sweetest and most gentle people I've ever met, and they get such a bad rap from us whites. That's not fair at all.
I told Omar I loved his church and would be delight to attend it regularly...if he would allow it. I'm glad to hear that, he said, and gave me a hug. In Euro-Canadian culture we're not a touchy bunch, Quebecers and Italians are the exception to that rule of course. I was surprised by Omar's hug, but I hugged him back. When we came apart, I looked at him and he looked at me. Without a word being spoken we moved closer, and closer to each other...until our lips met. I kissed Omar and he kissed me back, passionately. I kissed a BLACK guy and I liked it!
Wow, I said breathlessly when we came up for air. I looked at him and smiled. Omar smiled and shrugged, his hands in his pockets. That was neat, I said sheepishly. You have sweet lips Miss Gorman, Omar said. I laughed and playfully shoved him. You don't taste bad yourself, I grinned. Laughing, we made our way back to the bus stop. We sat together in the back, and for the rest of the ride we couldn't keep our hands off each other. Finally, we got back to the school.
Omar and I grabbed lunch at the Food Court, then he walked me back to my residence like a gentleman. I kissed him goodbye, then gushed like a brat before rushing to my room. I couldn't wait to tell my roommate, Lindsay Chang, about what we did. She's a short Asian chick whose parents don't approve of her Afghan boyfriend. She's the only person who knows about my growing fascination/attraction to Omar Haile.
As I got back to my room, I noticed Lindsay was still asleep like the lazy bum she is so the good news will have to wait. I got two text messages simultaneously. The first one is from Omar, thanking me for coming to church and wishing me a wonderful day. The second one came from my brother, telling me he was coming with my parents the following weekend. When I saw that, my heart sank. Just what I needed. My redneck parents visiting me when I'm falling in love with a black dude. The possibilities for disaster are endless. Pray for me, please!
The next day, I met Omar at the university center Tim Horton's for breakfast, and afterwards we had a nice long walk all over campus. I'm more of a power-walker than a jogger, it's my style of exercise, and Omar didn't mind tagging along. Along the way we talked about the project, and I guess we were both dancing around the topic we both yearned to ( and kind of dreaded ) discussing, our attraction to each other. I'm feeling you Miss Calgary, Omar said with a sweet smile on his face. When he said those words, my heart skipped a beat.
There we were on a bench in the quad outside the library, sitting close without touching. Don't look at me like that please, I said. Omar flinched as if he'd been hit. I'm sorry, he said, a puzzled look on his face. I like you but my family is coming to town and they just wouldn't understand, I blurted out. Omar looked at me, and shrugged. I am sorry, he said, then he got up. Where are you going? I shouted, grabbing his arm. I've got to go, he said, his eyes filled with sadness. Then he pulled away from me and walked away. I stood there, feeling disgusted at myself for what I'd done. I didn't want to hurt him, hell, I just wanted to spare him some pain. Now he was mad at me. Dammit, what's a gal supposed to do in situations like these?
I went to class that morning, and didn't see Omar there. He's usually among the first people to arrive, so I found that unusual. I texted Omar and even called him and got no reply. After class I went to lunch, then went back to my room. I went online, and checked my Facebook and Twitter messages. I checked Omar's Facebook page, and saw the words "racism will never die" in bold letters in his feed. Several people 'liked' his post and even commented. One black chick named Maryam posted "that's why us blacks got to stick together". Omar's reply to her? Amen my sister. I browsed his page a while and noticed that Maryam had commented on quite a few pictures of Omar. Damn, she's into him. Inwardly I bristled. I had to go talk to Omar, and quick.
What did I do? I ran to his building, and went up to his apartment. I knocked on the door three times before someone came to the door. A tall black chick with dreadlocks greeted me. Can I help you? she asked. I glared at her. Who are you, lady? I asked, crossing my arms. I'm Maryam and you need to learn some manners, she said in a sassy tone. I scoffed at that. I'm here to see Omar, I said icily. A moment later, Omar came to the door, flanked by a short Chinese dude. Hello Becky, he said evenly.
We need to talk, I said, looking Omar in the eyes. Not sure that's a good idea, Omar said. He was looking at me with the eyes of a stranger, so cool and in control, and so unlike the guy I bonded with and even kissed recently. I fucked up and I'm sorry, I said. Lady he doesn't want to hear your bullshit, Maryam said. Little sister not now, Omar told her. I looked at Maryam, and for the first time noticed the uncanny resemblance between her and Omar. You're his sister, I blurted out. Maryam looked at me coldly. It's my duty to protect my little brother from the likes of you, she said, hands on her hips. I'm not the bad guy, I said, looking from Omar to Maryam.
Maryam's eyes narrowed at me. Clearly this chick didn't believe me. Please hear me out, I pleaded, grabbing Omar's arm. Watch those hands girly, Maryam grimaced. Give us a minute, Omar told his sister. Maryam looked at him then at me. I'm here if you need me baby brother, she said boldly. I smiled in spite of myself. Why are you smiling? Omar asked. Your sister acts like my older brother did when I brought guys home, I laughed. Omar smiled. Got to protect family, he said with a shrug. He crossed his arms. I'm listening Miss Calgary, he said. I took a deep breath, and told him about my family, the views I was raised with, and how knowing him and falling for him changed me. You sure you no longer share their views? Omar asked me, cocking an eyebrow.
I'm a redneck woman and I'm in love with a black dude, I said, smiling in spite of the seriousness of the situation. Omar smiled. That's a very good answer Miss Calgary, my favorite Ethiopian-Canadian stud said. Then he pulled me into his arms and kissed me. I wrapped my arms around Omar and embraced him with all of my might. For a long moment after the kiss ended we just held each other. Hmm, came a voice behind us. Omar and I were so lost in the moment that we didn't hear his sister Maryam until she cleared her throat for the third time. You lovebirds need to remember that this is a university dormitory and not a bar, she said.
Maryam, Omar began. No, I said, gently touching Omar's arm. I looked at Maryam. I'm sorry we got off on the wrong foot but I do love your brother, I said, locking eyes with her. I extended my hand towards her. Let's try this again, I said evenly, my name is Rebecca Gorman. Maryam looked at my hand, and after a brief hesitation she shook it. Good to meet you Rebecca I'm Mare, she said, giving my hand a firm shake. Neither of us smiled. I liked her style instantly. A non-nonsense woman who's fiercely protective of those she loves. She reminded me of my aunt Cecilia, my mother's younger sister, whom our family ostracized for marrying Ibrahim Alkaabi, a guy from Kuwait. We were about to have dinner, Maryam said, looking me in the eye. Her lips parted into a smile a shark would recognize. Please join us, she said.
Dinner with the Haile family proved interesting, and I found myself warming up to Maryam. As tough as she was on me, she's got nothing on my family members. My mother, father, brothers and sister would never graciously invite Omar to dinner if they saw us together. My relatives were still coming over soon and I had to figure something out. Part of me wanted to have Omar stay away for the duration of my family's visit, but that wouldn't be fair to him. No, I wouldn't do that to him. No matter what, I'd stand up to my family. Like that white baseball player who put his arm around African-American baseball legend Jackie Robinson in defiance of his redneck family in the movie 42, I would show my kin what kind of person I was. This was my moment. It's the twenty-first century, dammit. Interracial relationships are nothing new in any part of the world.
When my parents came to visit my residence the following weekend, they were in for a surprise. You see, I arranged for their visit to coincide with an impromptu studying session. Guess who else was there? Yup, certain visible minority pals of mine. You should have seen the look on my family's faces when I introduced them to my boyfriend Omar, his sister Maryam, and my roommate Lindsay. How did they react to my newfound multiculturalism? Not very well, I'm afraid. How could you do a thing like this? My father said, glaring at me, then at Omar, and spitting on the ground. Don't spit on my floor Dad, I said, grimacing in disgust. A moment later I was wincing in pain for my mother smacked me. Don't talk back to your pa young lady, she said.
Omar took a step forward, shielding me with his body. I love your daughter and we're going to be together, he said firmly. He put his arms around me, and my father looked at him as if he were an alien or some kind of monster. Get your filthy paws off my daughter, he practically growled. Dad took a step toward Omar. At that moment, Maryam surged forward. You touch my brother and I will kick your redneck ass, she said angrily. My father looked at my mother, then at me. My brothers Sean and Arthur glared at me, shaking their heads. My sister Janice refused to look me in the eyes. First my sister now my daughter, Dad drawled. Every woman in my family wants to be with a savage, he shook his head. Taking my mother's hand, he spat on the floor once more. Samantha we're leaving, he told mom. My brothers hesitated, but nodded. Janice cut her eyes at me, shook her head and then followed the rest of my family out the door.
I stood there, my body trembling, tears streaming down my eyes. Why do they have to be like that? I asked Omar. Don't listen to them sweetie, he said, holding me tenderly. Maryam looked at me, and gently put her arm around me. You have a lot of guts Becky, she said with the first genuine smile I'd ever received from her. Thanks Mare, I said, and we exchanged dap. As you can imagine, from that moment forward, my life hasn't been the same. My parents decided to punish me for my defiance by cutting off any financial support I once received from them. We cannot tolerate your lifestyle and poor associations, Dad told me once I tried to reason with him over the phone a few days after the 'meeting'.
What am I supposed to do now? Without my parents financial support I could kiss my civil engineering studies at Carleton University goodbye. I wouldn't be able to afford the dorm I sleep in or any of the things I'd grown attached to. I'd be homeless! Fortunately, Omar and Maryam helped me. I got a job on campus, and applied for every scholarship and bursary I could think of. The Awards Office on campus gave me a thousand dollars, and with that I was able to stay in school...for this semester. Got to work and save two grand to even contemplate going to school next semester. With all those expenses I couldn't afford to keep my dorm, though. Luckily, Maryam was looking for a roommate since the chick she'd been rooming with abruptly left for Jamaica due to a family emergency...three weeks ago. I moved in with Maryam, and even though sometimes we get on each other's nerves, she's a decent person to be around. We're becoming friends, actually.