A natural part of everyone’s lives, something we all have to do one point or another, is be on our own and take care of ourselves. For me, it started when I went to college. I used to go home, and there would be dinner ready for me because my mother was there to take care of me. If I would ever get into an argument in school, I would have friends around me to back me up if necessary. Here in college though, I do not know anybody. I have to make sure I go and get my own food every day. I have to go to the store and get my own groceries if I need them. I have accustomed myself to this, and now I take full care of myself, making sure that if I ever need anything, I go out and get it myself; because I cannot depend on somebody else to help me.
In Percival Everett’s I Am Not Sidney Poitier, the protagonist, Not Sidney, begins his life with less help than most. There is no mention to who his father is, and his mother died only a few years after his birth. His guardian is Ted Turner, the owner of Turner Broadcasting System. This means that Not Sidney already has few people to take care of him or help him out in life.
Growing up, he was bullied a lot for his name. People would assume he was just being snarky when he tells them his name is Not Sidney, and they would begin to beat him. This happens repeatedly throughout his life, and Not Sidney gets to the point where he expects to be beat up when he is meeting new people. However, as he grows older, he becomes very tall and notices this, which helps him gain confidence. On page thirty-nine, a usual bully approaches him to take his cupcake during lunch. Not Sidney decides to stand up for himself, and confidently tell him no. The bully hears his tone and sees his height and decides to back down.
Earlier in the same chapter, Not Sidney was brought over to Beatrice’s house, his history teacher. She decides to give him a blowjob; however, Not Sidney does not like it. He tells Ted about it, and he suggests for him not to go back. Not Sidney does end up going back though, and this time, he tells her he does not want her to make any sexual advances. Beatrice ignores him and even threatens to fail him if he says no. Beatrice once again fallatiates Not Sidney and decides to fail him anyway. This upsets Not Sidney, so he decides to tell the principal. Upon hearing what Not Sidney has to say, he simply laughs and does not believe him. This time, Ted tells him to go to the school superintendent. She listened to his story and had the same exact reaction the principal had.
After being sexually assaulted and not believed by anyone, Not Sidney decides to drop out of school and become independent, to write his own story. On page forty-three, he says, “I accepted, then and there, my place in this world. I was a fighter of windmills. I was a chaser of whales. I was Not Sidney Poitier.” He decided that it is time for his name to be worth something in the world. After this, he decides to leave home. Not Sidney realizes that he has nobody to help him get anywhere in life, and he has to fend for himself and control his own life.
It is clear that through most of his life, Not Sidney is a victim. He was given a strange name and gets bullied for it. He has no parents. He was bullied all his life and took many beatings. He was sexually assaulted, and nobody believed him. Even after he decides to leave and start a new life, he Immediately gets arrested for being black. He has to run from the law, handcuffed to a racist white man. If this sounds familiar, that is because it is. Percival Everett decided to take the plot of the Sydney Poitier movie, The Defiant Ones, from 1958 and copy it into his book. However, instead of ending with him getting caught, like the movie did, he ended up back home with no consequences.
Not Sidney Poitier still had to make something of himself, so he went with the only logical next step; he decided to apply for college. Not Sidney, however, did not graduate high school, but he had money. He met with a representative from Morehouse, an all-black college. After making a large offer of 325,000 dollars, he is accepted to go in the fall. Now it is Not Sidney’s turn to go to college. Even though he had to learn to take care of himself all his life, he was never really able to because people would either not take him seriously, beat him up, or simply did not like him. In college, there are a lot of people that are learning how to take care of themselves for the first time. In doing so, they like to take care of others as well. I am expecting to see Not Sidney begin to struggle less. He is going to an all-black college, so his race should no longer offend people. College is a place to be yourself, so Not Sidney should have no problems with any bullies; and he is studying in a college, so he should be starting to be taken more seriously.