Sunday, May 30. 2010
There was a place where I would work long hours, by myself. Not exactly alone, Ed the security guard would make his rounds. We would converse, and got along fairly well. At one point he said to me:"Hey Brutha..." Bear in mind that if I pull up my pant leg on a sunny day, people could go snow blind. I took it as a compliment, but couldn't respond favorably, because I had already thought about it.
The easiest way to describe my thoughts is to do a time warp, to about 1963, sometime in the heat of the civil rights movement. Let's say that I was involved, picketing on behalf of blacks, doing things like that. Then one day someone threatens to burn my house down. At that point, I could stay the course, or, I could pack up everything, move to Oregon or Alaska, start an antique store, cleaning business, get a job, whatever, just wear sunglasses and hide out.
A black man doesn't have that option, everywhere he goes there could be someone there who will give him a hard time. It must be difficult not knowing whether this guy you had to deal with is grouchy to everyone, or just a racist. I caught the tail end of a radio interview with an author named Ruffus. I don't recall whether it was his first name or last. One of the things he was saying was that white people can choose if they want to be around blacks or not, but blacks don't have that option. The loan officer is white, the zoning official is white, so many of the people encountered are white. Ed was saying that racism can show up in subtle ways. If someone on the east side of town calls about a pothole in the road, it can take months to repair. But if someone on the west side calls, it's done that afternoon. I'm so caught up in my own survival that I don't know what it's like.
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