Like many other American drones these days, I had Monday, January 17th off for Martin Luther King's birthday. I had planned on sleeping late.
I was in for a rude awakening.
Bam! Blam! STOMP STOMP STOMP stomp stomp SLAM!
Slam SLAM thump thump slam SLAM!
Shit. That damned crazy bitch upstairs isn't going to let me sleep late today. I rolled out of bed, went to the kitchen to start the coffeepot and headed to the bathroom.
Thump thump STOMP STOMP!
“God damned bitch,” I muttered to myself as I left the bathroom. I fired up the computer to hear a few random MP3s as I finished my coffee. My stomach was still upset despite having emptied my bowels. Maybe I should eat something? I've been unintentionally losing weight since I stopped taking the Paxils. I had gained 40 pounds, going from 125 (Yes, I was very thin) to a more normal 165 pounds, but I fear getting skinny again.
I ate a pastry with my coffee. It was starting to get light outside.
SLAM! BANG BANG THUMP!
After feeding my daughter's cats (she doesn't come home much lately) I shut off the tunes and fired up the TV, and watched some History Channel show about a jockey who had won the Kentucky Derby twice around 1900 but who wasn't allowed to race here “because of his skin color” after the sport became more popular.
At least, that's what the historians are saying. They also said in the show that racism is keeping black jockeys off of horses today.
Racism? Er, didn't they pass laws against that sort of thing about 40 years ago?
As I watched, my mind drifted back ten years to a conversation I had with a black woman as we stood outside the workplace shivering and smoking. Yes, it's completely legal to discriminate against smokers, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual preference. One of the questions my landlord had asked was “Do you smoke?” and if the answer had been “yes” my rent would have been much higher.
This lady was complaining to me about racial dis-crimination, the smoking discrimination completely passing her by. It seems she had been in some store the night before, and the salespeople had followed her, watching like a hawk, as if she was going to steal something.
“I wish I had that problem,” I had told her. “I need a clerk and I can't find one.”
In 1900, the time of the black Kentucky Derby winner, American society was incredibly racist. After all, it had only been a few short decades since blacks were thought of and treated as animals; bought, sold, and worked like horses or dogs without pay. They were property, just like the horses and dogs. You don't pay your dog, you feed it and water it.
A black friend once informed me that this was the reason black people find being called “boy” so demeaning, “nigger” so insulting and either word incredibly hurtful. In the early 1800s a man would go into town and buy a horse, a few head of cattle, a nigger, maybe a dog or two. Here boy!
My take on it was this happened a century ago (at the time I knew this particular fellow), that I had never owned a slave, nor known anyone who had ever owned a slave, or known anyone who had ever been a slave, or known anyone who had known anyone who had ever owned or been a slave. Delroy agreed, and said that's the reason black people throw the word “nigger” around so much.
I almost never ever hear a white person use the word “nigger.” It's hard to be in a crowd of blacks without hearing one of them use it. Pot? Kettle? Dead horse?
I shut the TV off and sat there, thinking about race relations and the black friends I have had over the years. A car stopped outside my apartment with its radio on. Jazz wafted through the walls. I looked out the window and spied a black woman going in the building next door as her car idled outside with its radio blaring. Five minutes later it and she were gone.
BLAM BLAM BLAM!!!!!
It was my door. The peephole cover flew five feet across the room, the door was being beaten on so hard. I had no doubt who it was; the crazy bitch from upstairs, who hates white people and wakes me up at 5:30 AM on my day off stomping on my ceiling and slamming doors.
“GOD DAMN HONKEY MUTHAFUCKA SHUT THAT DAMNED MUSIC DOWN YOU MOTHAFUCKING SONABITCH! GOD DAMN GOD DAMN GOD DAMN!”
“Go away” I said.
“GOD DAMN MOTHERFUCKER CRACKER SONOFA-BITCH TURN THAT DAMNED MUSIC DOWN!”
You want to end racism? Act like a human being. That goes for all of you, whatever your race.
I turned the MP3s on and cranked it up as loud as it would go, steam seeming to come out of my ears.
A fitting tribute to Dr. King, I thought.