Oxydol Poisoning Part Seven

Oxydol Poisoning Part Seven

Earl Jackson, Jr.

The Audition

I made it through the first semester without serious incident. One afternoon shortly after Christmas break, however, Mr. Lefkowitz was waiting for us in the locker room. He told us not to change because we were going to the auditorium instead. Everyone was seated in the first rows of seats, and the place was semi-dark accept for the stage. One of the seniors who assisted Lefkowitz „manned“ the spotlights. Another put a chair on the side of the stage. Lefkowitz told me to sit with all my books on that chair. He announced to the class: „Today we’re going to teach Jackson how to walk and act like a man.“ I was ordered to walk across the stage, carrying my books. Whenever he or one of the class decided my walk or way of holding the books was too effeminate (every time for about ten times) one the senior assistants leapt to the stage and knocked all the books out of my hands. I had to scoop them up, and start all over again.

Finally Lefkowitz directed me to pull the chair to stage center and sit on it. The assistant turned a pin spot on me. There were whispered instructions to the oldest of the senior assistants, muffled laughter, and then a momentary silence. Then the assistant spoke from somewhere in the row of boys that was only sporadically and vaguely distinguishable as shapes in the blackness. The voice told me what masturbation was and how to „do it.“ Thanks to my sheltered Seventh-Day Adventist upbringing, I had never heard of this before. I concentrated on remaining expressionless. I would not acknowledge the voice with so much as a movement of a muscle in my face. My eyes focused on nothing. I stared blankly ahead, without the expectation or desire to see anything beyond the inane blur of the footlights and the inky emptiness of the auditorium. I was on a spaceship looking out the window, in a cheap, unconvincing sci-fi movie. All alone. Hearing nothing except static on the radio, an unintelligible message from an irrelevant ground control.

Whether or not Lefkowitz turned the class attention to me in order to maintain the racial truce he had established by scapegoating Hoak, my situation was fully implicated in the prevalent discourse on racial, sexual, and gender identities. It was one of the „Oxydol“ functions of whiteness that facilitated strategic value in the choice of victims. Both Hoak and I could be considered racially unmarked because we were white. Denouncing a black child as a „reject“ or a potential „fag“ would have still meant inciting white student hostility against a black student, something Lefkowitz knew would have been counterproductive. Because „whiteness“ has no „characteristics“ (in its privileged self-definition as universal) both Hoak’s and my racial identity could be ignored in favor of the intolerable „difference“ that eclipsed it. Therefore, even if black kids were bullying either one of us, the white kids would not perceive it as a race-related conflict. This strategy, however, was subtended by the tragic irony that the adult leading the gang of young men in his charge against an unarmed person whose only crime was the appearance of „difference“ was a Jewish man who came of age during the Holocaust. This irony was particularly painful to me because I felt an affinity to Judaism as a religion that my mother’s Church had at once imposed on and withheld from me.

The forms my persecution took demonstrated the horrible adaptibility of the logic of hatred. Hoak was hated because he was „stupid“ and his „imbicility“ was the grounds for the suspicions he was a „faggot“ because he didn’t know any better. I had just made the honor roll, and my „brains“ and my bookish habits were now the symptoms of my „faggotry“ – I could be despised for being bright with the same intensity as Hoak could be for being dumb. The white picket fence and meticulous garden surrounding my house, my abbhorence of dirty jokes and the religious stringency of my upbringing were circumstantial evidence for doting and attentive parents. The students used this misconstrued „parental overprotectiveness“ as a focus of their hectoring of me, just as his parents‘ neglect had been the cause and vindication of their aggressive contempt for Hoak. My relationship with Manuela became a mark of my sexual/gender confusion. Being seen with a girl was usually regarded as a sign of heterosexual conquest and butch assurance. My friendship with a girl betrayed an identification with women and unorthodox sympathies with them.

The absence of a „Hispanic“ student presence allowed the white students to use racial slurs against Manuela in taunting me. They would not have done this had she been black, not only because there would have been swift retribution from the black students, but also because the victimization of me had as one of its purposes the maintenance of an equilibrium between black and white male students. But I suspect that the use of Manuela’s race also figured in the covert communication and the stabilizing functions of this form of terrorism. By attacking me for an interracial friendship as a symptom of my homosexuality, the white boys could join the black guys in a truce on the basis of a common enemy of masculinity, while obliquely setting the limits of that truce to a peaceful coexistence within the contexts of the school environment. My friendship with Manuela transgressed both gender and racial boundaries; by touting these transgressions as stigmata of my sexual perversion, those boundaries were resecured. Heterosexuality required dating women but not liking them. Similarly, the provisional racial harmony between blacks and whites precluded crossracial understanding. The foreclosure of real interracial relations as a structural necessity for the school’s black and white „unity“ was expressed at the expense of a third race, so that the assertion could be made and denied at the same time.


Oxydol Poisoning ~ Earl Jackson, Jr.















The Responsibility to Difference
Theorizing Race and Ethnicity
in Lesbian and Gay Studies

Desire at Cross[Cultural] Purposes:
Hiroshima, Mon Amour and
Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Another Scene


Earl Jackson, Jr.
Another Scene