It's a rare night, an even more rare weekend night when I’m without my wife and daughters, so I find myself hanging out at the Oak for a guys’ night out with couple of friends, eager to watch the Reds and talk some trash. The young night grows old and soon I’m one of the last two holdouts, not quite ready for the evening to end.
A woman approaches our table and asks to join us, complaining about the situation with her friends. She just needs a break. Cool. She proceeds to talk about the NBA Finals — it was LeBron’s destiny to win — and how she’s always been a fan, as far back as his Cleveland days. Her appreciation of LeBron turns fetishistic. She comments repeatedly on his wingspan and even his “finger span” and how LeBron was made to be a champion. He’s fucking amazing; he’s her Jordan.
Lots of her comments were repeated, to emphasize her point maybe, but also likely due to the drunken loop playing in her head. When I, in particular, begin to question some of her arguments or assumptions, she reverts to form, again and again. His wingspan and finger span make him the Man. I attempt to politely agree to disagree.
Yes, then, the conversation takes a disastrous turn, uncomfortable and bizarre. She starts to sense that we are disinterested. Spotting an opportunity to slip out of this rather knotty situation, my friend tells a little white lie about a female friend who may arrive shortly and how we need to reclaim the table (and some much needed space).
She responds, impulsively, letting us know that she’s got a boyfriend and that my friend is not her type, would never be her type, so it doesn’t matter.
From there, she erupts in a rude vitriolic rage rooted in class and racial overtones.
She’s friends with the owner and can have us expelled from the bar. She lays her own claim on our table. It is obvious to her that we don’t belong there and she’s not afraid to tell us. Her boyfriend is beautiful and a big athlete. He went to Moeller. We’re rude. She asks us why the fuck we are there. Do we know where we are? This is Hyde Park. She drives a BMW. Her mother drives a Ferrari. She asks us what we drive. She’s going to have her boyfriend come over to the table to kick us out.
I’ve listened enough to this Tea Party/Fox News bullshit and I can’t take anymore. I snap. She doesn’t know us or care to know anything about us, but she’s got no power over us. I find myself telling her that she’s a disrespectful child. I’ve been a grown-assed man longer than she’s probably been alive and there’s no way I have to put up with this crap. I was raised in the South, been called a jigaboo in rural parts of the Northeast, and found myself in situations with police that were more than questionable, but never have I been accosted so up close and personally by such blatantly racist attitudes.
I could say that it’s 2012 and we’ve got a black president, but it’s not like I figured anything had changed thanks to that. Hell no, racism is alive and well, but what is also kicking and screaming is something in me.
After she eventually left the table, I found myself casting my hurt and anger on everyone around me. I looked at every white person there and imagined that they were just like her, eager to lord their whiteness over me too. All it would take would be pint of the all-mighty truth serum to loosen the tongue and the sensibilities, allowing them to give voice to what has been kept buried (not so deep) inside.
The woman eventually brought her boyfriend back and tried to convince him to defend her honor, exhorting him with all of the pettiness her dark heart could muster, but the boyfriend, in his inebriated state, recognized this wasn’t the way to go. She stormed off, he tried to laugh it off, and I hated them both. I may have even hated him more because I could see that despite the fact that he had seen this other side of her, maybe for the first time, he would find a way to excuse it.
CONTACT TT STERN-ENZI: email@example.com