With my 28th birthday right around the corner, my old bones aren’t good for anything but eating and talking; when I feel frisky, I will do the above with other people.
Yesterday was one of those occasions.
My friend Donald, whom I met reselling shoes, contacted me for lunch. I responded so quickly that I don’t know if it was my fingers thumping or my stomach, but needless to say I had to.
Donald, a 45-year-old Caucasian man, grew up in a Detroit enclave; Highland Park, off Puritan.
For those of you unfamiliar with the area, let me provide more context- neighborhood scout rated Highland Park’s crime index at 3, with 100 being the safest.
Although this statistical reading is for Highland Park today, while Donald was growing up in this neighborhood, the crack epidemic was in full swing and affected predominantly black neighborhoods like Highland Park.
Donald first described his childhood in this urban area as a daily battle.
“Dude, when I first moved into the block, I was walking to school in the morning and getting barked at by some guys from the neighborhood saying, ‘N—–, what the hell are you doing on this side of the street?’
We would end up fighting, so the next day I was walking across the street, but then I heard, ‘N—–, what are you doing on this side of the street?’
As we mashed up our fried pickles and potato skins, we shifted the conversation more directly to racism.
“You know, I just don’t understand how racism is a thing,” Donald said. “It’s just a difference of culture, and who can say that one culture is better than another? In summary, we are all human beings just trying to figure out this thing called life.
“I agree,” I replied. “The ideology behind it also baffles me, but it’s a ledge that most people are willing to die on in this country. The underlying ideas are only based on propaganda, but I think over time people have become accustomed to living with stereotypes. Of course, with other social and economic factors at play, this only gives these stereotypes a basis to stand on. Everything is quite dark.
Our server came over and briefly interrupted the conversation by putting down our main courses. A steaming hot buffalo sandwich with curly fries for me (a staple in my diet) and a river burger for Donald.
Donald’s burger was so heavy a cow could have a hard time trying to devour it, but then again, that would be some kind of cannibalism, huh?
As I began to work on my curly fries and Donald figured out what angle to attack the monstrosity on display before him, our conversation resumed.
“You know, my wife and I went to this fudge place on the Upper Peninsula and an interracial couple walked in. A man, who must have been in his 50s, was sitting with his wife when he said, ‘I can’t believe this couple would walk in here like this. I walked over to his table and said, “I can’t believe your wife could marry someone as stupid as you.” As he sat there in shock, my wife came over and begged me to leave because she knew all it would take was for him to say something else about stupid and my backhand crossed his face.
“That’s crazy,” I replied, laughing a little at the thought of Donald’s backhand crossing the elderly man’s face. “I believe (among other factors) that racism is going to be America’s downfall. It’s remarkable that we still disagree with a problem that was created hundreds of years ago, but some people just don’t want to let it go. If we could come this far divided, imagine what we could create together. Call it utopian, but I think it’s plausible.
“Yeah, you and me both, kid,” Donald replied.
We were both sitting there feeling the effects of what ingesting five pounds of food brings when I thought I would change the topic of conversation.
“What do you think of the November primaries, Donald? »
“Well, as long as these lib-lates get and stay out of the office, things should be fine.”
“Interesting,” I replied. “Don’t you see politics and racism in the same light?
Donald replied, “What do you mean?”
“Well, if a simple difference in culture doesn’t make either ethnicity better than the other, couldn’t you apply the same method of thinking to politics?”
Donald sneered and said, “You still have a lot to learn, kid.”