I live on a plantation. One of the largest plantations still in operation. I never realized that I was on a plantation until about a decade or so ago. Up until then, I thought I lived a normal existence. It was a nice working class and lower-middle class community. There were also families on public assistance. It wasn’t perfect; it had its share of thugs, hoodlums, and players. The plantation community maintained a balance between all facets of life. This gave us a false sense of respectfulness, security and stability.
My early years were spent on the plantation until my mother and I relocated to a more diverse area. Diversity at that time meant predominantly White and everybody else after that. Life off the plantation was nice, but also strange. I grew up with and went to school with people of all colors, including individuals from other plantations. The only problem was that the community outside the plantation lacked true elders, spiritual leaders, ancestral tradition and protectors.
Several years later we returned to the plantation. We are free to come and go as we please. However, each time we do we are reminded of who and what we are. Some of my very best friends from outside the plantation began to look down on me because I returned to the plantation. I lived in a house, yet some of them lived in a cramped roach infested apartments, but I was considered low due to my status.
The overseers were and are an ever present reminder of the fact that we don’t have true control over ourselves. They treat us like criminals and they make sure to keep us in. If we commit a crime it better be on the plantation or else, we’ll be in real trouble. Instead of being a service to the community and helping us to find solutions to real issues of safety they look for problems. Even those who represent us lie, cheat, and steal from us; some live on the better side of the plantation while others live off plantation. Willie Lynch is in full effect.
The realization of living on a plantation hit me when I was at work one day. A coworker told me that I was considered a “ghetto girl” because of where I lived. Never mind that several of my family members and I all had been to college or that my grandparents owned more than one piece of property. The remark angered and offended me. On another occasion someone told me that I was “stuck” where I live at and couldn’t get out. My community has been so disparaged and denigrated in the last generation that it has become otherized as a place where the uncivilized go to die. No one wants to take you seriously when they know that you come from the plantation. The only thing you are good for is standing on so they can make themselves feel superior; they need to keep somebody down.
A long time ago when I said I was from the plantation no one gave me a frown. But, that was before the community was purposefully deconstructed by way of harsh drugs, the loss of local employment and lack of housing. No one cares who you really are, they know that you are from the plantation and that’s all that counts. Even the people on the “better” side of the plantation feel the newest form bigotry and prejudice-plantationization.
When I reveal my origins people want to know what I’m doing off the plantation. It’s alright if you are off plantation for work, that’s if you can get work with your plantation address, otherwise you need to go back to where you come from.
I feel like one day someone is going to ask me if I have permission to be off the plantation. The walls of the plantation are only virtual but soon they will be physical. Some people fear us while others show pity; none of them know us, nor do they care to. We are invisible-we don’t even exist. And as long as it stays that we they can dump on us all they want and make us believe in the stereotypes they use against us in order to keep us in our place.
I’ve been talking about a plantation that I have yet to name. Everyone knows it. Songs have been made about it telling stories that were sometimes true and at other times fabulation. Movies that supposedly depict life on the plantation have a large dose of Hollywood in them, because the tale is always what the plantation owners want to hear; their version of our stories. I live on the plantation called South Central Los Angeles or just plain South Los Angeles. And today in South Los Angeles the walls are closing in around us and we have become a marginalized, throw-away community that is intentionally being kept poor so that other less color-full communities can thrive. The plantationization of South Los Angeles must stop!