IN CAJUN COUNTRY
The next day, I drive to Lafayette. Along the way, and through the consulate of France in New Orleans, I meet a young French teacher of African descent who’s been catapulted into high school in a small Cajun town. Her story is inspiring. Upon her arrival, things start going awry. Most parents are Cajuns, therefore white.They can hardly conceive that the teacher is black. They are not used to it, and things get stuck. But the most fascinating aspect is the rest of the story.
After the transition period, they come to see her, question her, and come to understand that she comes directly from Africa, and therefore, they have no problem with the situation. She has nothing to do with their contentious past, “their blacks”. It has now less to do with skin color, and a lot to do with history.
But, it gets worse… While the white parents reject her at first, the few blacks students do not accept either. They call her all kinds of names and perceive her as a pretentious black as they aren’t used to seeing other blacks in this position either. Some of the parents even complain that they gave them a less-than teacher. They would have preferred a white one.
I leave her to continue my journey onto Lafayette. A group of Cajun ladies are firmly waiting for me. I already know some of them; they spearhead the local Cajun community. They have prepared a simple and typical meal made of crushed corn. My presence was certainly used as an excuse for this small congregation, but Mavis really does eat like this when she’s alone.
At night, in a bar downtown, a tipsy woman propositions me. It will be just me and her, but her husband, who’s much older, wishes to listen by phone. I politely decline.