Archive for the ‘White Men’ Category

Whar’s the Rocky Road ice cream!
Whar’s the Rocky Road ice cream! Whar’s the Chocolate Mint!
He stood bending over the ice cream freezer, rifling through the cartons, looking like a mountain man come down from the hills looking to replenish his supplies. Hairy, bearded, unkempt. In his left arm he clutched a matching dog, who watched calmly as its master became more and more agitated.
His accent was decidedly authentic, old-school Texan.
Whar’s the Rocky Road ice cream!!, he yelled again, his frustration evidently growing. Don’t yuppies eat Rocky Road ice cream?
No one answered.
I got in line with my purchase, an Apricot Ale, a decidedly yuppie purchase. He finally got in line behind me, a pint of ice cream in his off-dog hand.
Don’t yuppies eat Rocky Road ice cream! he yelled from his spot in line.
Again no answer.
When people yell you tend to think they’re angry and you’re inclined to want to run the other way, which was my initial reaction to him. But when I thought about his use of the term “yuppies” — a word I haven’t heard used in more than 20 years – and where we were geographically — I started to see the ice cream as a metaphor for his life. Yeah, he was loud but maybe this is a guy who is trying to express his frustration about losing things he knows in an area of the city that is transitioning. rocky road horizonMaybe he’s lived here all of his life and now all of these people with money are moving into the neighborhood. Maybe these yuppies are not only displacing his friends and family but they are also trying to replace everything with which he is familiar, like the ice cream he grew up with, with those yuppie flavors like Sea Salt Caramel Truffle.
Maybe it was something about his quest for Rocky Road in particular that hit me. When I was much younger that was my favorite ice cream flavor. Whatever the reason, something compelled me to turn around and address him.
I turned and asked, What kind of ice cream did you settle on?
He didn’t look so angry, standing behind me with that pint of ice cream in one hand and the dog in the other. He seemed surprised that anyone had acknowledged him.
Oh, he said.  Much more subdued. Chocolate Dutch, he said. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices.
Yeah, you do, I said. I turned to the counter and paid for my purchase.
As I left the store I watched him approach the counter.
Don’t yuppies eat Rocky Road ice cream!? he yelled toward the clerk.
Still no reply.

Advertisements

I step into the subway car.
A young man with headphones enters the doors to my left and sits just down the way across the aisle. Other than the two of us and a couple of loose tabloid sheets the car is empty.
I sit down and pull out my cell phone to text my daughter whom I’m meeting in a couple of stops to continue uptown for lunch.
“I never did figure out which is least”
Darn autocorrect.
“last”
We had arranged to meet on the last car of the train but I, being basically a Kansas tourist and unfamiliar with the ways of New York trains, wasn’t sure I could tell which end was front when I couldn’t see a big red engine car. As it turned out I could.
“Think I’m on it”
As I reach to put my phone back in to my pocket a man and a boy, maybe 12 or 13, enters at the other end of the car. The man is talking loudly, not an unusual event in New York City. I try to ignore him. He amps up his “talking”.
“Son, let me tell you about the niggers!”
“My heart is beating. I know this because I hear it. I feel it. I am aware of it.
What seconds ago was simply a ride to a pleasant luncheon outing with my daughter, son-in-law and infant grandson has suddenly turned into a risk assessment. Is this loud-mouthed bigot likely to harm me? I casually glance at earphone guy who is between me and the loud mouth and he seems oblivious to what is being said.
Not wanting to give the speaker any satisfaction of knowing I hear him and not wanting to be the cause of a physical confrontation I surreptitiously look toward the man. The old man, probably actually only 60 or 50 even, hocks up a giant white ball of spit, opens the doors between the cars and spews it out. The boy seems disinterested in what the man is saying.
The train, which has been sitting at the station, starts moving toward our destination. I decide the man poses no immediate physical threat.
He gets louder.
“Come here my boy. You’re too far away. Sit over here. I want to tell you about the fuckin’ Jews.”
At this I flat-out look up. The boy was sitting across the doorway from the man but got up and moved to the seat across the aisle upon the man’s command. He still seemed unmoved by the man’s words; almost resigned.
It’s obviously a show. The boy is right there.
The man shouts.
“The fuckin’ Jews are dirty!
“The fuckin’ Jews are shifty!”
About now I’m wondering how Mr. Loudmouth would react to knowing he’d offended both groups in my one little package. Would he be pleased?
I think about confronting him but what would I say?
“Hi, I’m a Fuckin’ Nigger Jew, please quiet down you’re offending me?”
He goes on and on about the Niggers and the Jews as I reach my stop and I casually get up to exit. I will not let him know that he has made me uncomfortable.
I gently guide my family away from the doors saying we can’t stay on this car. We move to a more amiable compartment where they smile at babies and largely stay silent.
I go on about my business and he about his.
To New Yorkers maybe this is just a case of one disturbed person in a city full of them; a minor incident not worth even registering. To me it’s an example of the minefields I may have to negotiate anytime I leave my home, no matter the city.
Some White people – not all or maybe even most – want to believe that this could be one big happy country if Black people would stop trying to make everything about race. Why do Black people always have to make it about race?
We don’t. We wish we could stop looking over our shoulders, wondering whether some guy means to harm us. Whether the guy trying so hard to impress someone on a train is going to whip out a weapon or something to back up his ignorance. It would be nice to believe that bigotry doesn’t exist anymore in America. It would be nice to be the young, White guy with the headphones who can share the same car with the raging bigot and remain clueless and unaffected. But if you’re the African-American woman riding in that car, if you’re me, it’s not that easy. As a Black woman I cannot ignore the words of crazed White men around me because history and recent events tell me that I could be attacked and I might not be able to count on anyone around me — including the authorities — to come to my aid.
As much as I’d like to believe that the world is a wonderful safe place where everyone loves me or, at the very least, tolerates my presence, it seems there is always someone waiting there to remind me that we haven’t yet reached that racial Utopia so many White folks want to believe in.