|The "N" word is the annoying, contumelious racist proverb almost as old as
it's source. Seated for lunch one day, a colleague and I watched it used
between every spoken thought intended for one hundred White people within
their space to hear it. My man's color flushed - his demeanor quickly
switched into humiliation mode. We would have to duck curious White eyes
studying the contrast between the two suited, stiff Black professionals
seated in serious conversation and the knuckleheads loosely throwing empty
slang in the heat of an aberrated, "ethnic" moment.
He cringed during our meeting in some unknown, yet convenient suburban
sprawled mall. We were within earshot of trashy, thuggish truisms spread like
mayonnaise and mustard on a bread slice of profanity and juvenile overtures.
Could it have been these Black teenage thug wannabes suddenly twisted by his
psyche into public enemies that bothered him, or was it the passing White
family that whisked by and watched? Was it an indelible print of social and
racial madness bundled in impressionable stigmas? He exhausted breath and
bone the day before and the days he could remember before that, struggling to
reason - struggling to prove - that all Black folks did not think or act
alike. He exhibited beyond any of the reasonable doubts lingering in the
minds of White folks that there is no single psychological mechanism steering
these Black souls. Every avenue of explanation had been exhausted in
describing why "they" behaved the way "they" did, even though he relapsed
into what he abhorred: an "N" word calling other "N" words outside their
name. How shameful it all became.
"But listen," I said, "I'm not throwing guilt at you. I understand. You've
noticed the side-glances of timid acting Caucasians who throw stares as quick
as a major league fastball, giving the sanguine impression that they are not
aware when they are." They played unconscious of the 'vermin' existing and
committing the undesirable, pretending as though they couldn't look. He
cringed again when the loud cracks and bursts of street laughter rolled in
like dusty, mildewed red carpets: "Why do they have to be so loud? Why?"
Then he talked about how - "thank God" - we didn't all think alike. This is
that doltish, less difficult justification explaining a set of past flaws and
present drawbacks repeated time after time, no effort made, little breath
wasted to mend. Indeed, we are as great as what we are told, and what we
tell ourselves we are not. We happened to accumulate a greatness and
diversity within, despite the past five centuries: chatteled, captured,
traded, tormented and transformed 'we' have been. But, great? ... 'we' do
not know we are. We do not all think alike, yet we persist. We insist on
persisting. Persisting to exist. Existing to continue believing in a
humanity frozen by time and sinful vicissitudes.
Understand the impossibility of this occurring without 'we': the pugnacious
'we,' happening in contrast to the weak claim of 'we' as simply being. At
different places, somewhere along the trying, tribulating lines and times,
there was the collective, connected 'we.' A 'we' which now lies open, loins
strewn across the sub-Sahara of time, a wretched twist of a sham, a con we
Well, the point being that my friend here was interminably, hopelessly
convinced and quite satisfied that we all didn't think alike. That was his
secret weapon, his rebuttal. I observed it in his manner as we sat watching
the young brothas wile out, heard him previously use it in raunchy racial
squabbles and run-ins: "Well ... well ... we don't all think alike, you
That belief remains the discordant mantra amongst the quarrelsome colored
folks holding conversations already scrapped and meaningless before they even
Because consensus and solidarity are accepted as unattainable, it makes no
sense to speak otherwise since it renders most spinning wildly into the ire.
And this is what is real comical: in the end, he became a confirmation of
what 'it' is. That 'it' he claimed to so opposed, so detest and hold in
infinite disdain. The 'IT' of presumptions and prejudice. Watch 'it' now:
you think 'it' likes you, because you subconsciously please 'it.' As for my
friend here, his objection to these young, Black "partners-in-crime" as he
called it, meant he was not actively seeking to get in 'its' path as he
should have been. It could have been different if the energy behind his cold
stare had, instead, been transformed into a casual gesture or respectful
greeting of brotherly love - the respect factor, I find, seems to work.
Because it says we are all equals and human beings regardless of appearance,
car driven, profession pursued and possessions acquired.
What he pronounced to despise, in the long run, consumed him.
C.D. Ellison is Contributing Writer to Metro Connection. He can be reached