copyright © 2006 Brian E. Rochlin


By Brian E. Rochlin


(Pauline, dressed in conservative work clothes, tidy, agitated, begins speaking)


I don’t believe I was wrong. I don’t believe I was wrong at all. And although I rarely use such language, that man was indeed a…a Nigger. Now I have been raised in the same politically correct environment as you, and I know how wrong the use of the N-word is.

I do not believe white people are better than black people, and I do believe the black man has been wronged. But in this case, I was wronged, and it wasn’t the justifiable act of a societally disadvantaged individual with no recourse. Well, yes, I’m sure he was societally disadvantaged. They all are. But he was not without recourse. And even if he were, it was not justifiable.

Counting on her fingers, she rethinks the logic of her argument and then nods, knowing she’s gotten it right.

And I don’t think all black people who are jerks are…that. Just sometimes, like with the F-word, sometimes, it really is the only accurate word to use.

Now I am not a racist. I mean if my daughter’s heart were failing or diseased, and the only donor was a little black boy, I certainly wouldn’t stand in the way of her taking that boy’s heart. (beat) That he so generously sacrificed.

But today, I was perhaps not on my best behavior. Not that I’m completely to blame.

I was driving not on Skid Row, but near it. And there was this filthy, scruffy man, sitting on a milk carton eating a slice of watermelon. Truly. And they’re not even in season.

I was driving in that part of town because…I just wasn’t paying attention. Otherwise, I never would have been there. I just don’t drive in that part of town.

I had been fired for making…insensitive remarks. It was really just a harmless joke, but I had been warned, and though no one was complaining, HR was walking by, and wasn’t willing to take the risk of it ballooning into something more.

So, I was just in an unusually foul mood. It really wasn’t like me. So, when he looks up at me driving my car (which I’m thinking I might not be able to keep), and says, "Hey, you, give me a dollar," I yell back at him, "Why don’t you get a job."

And he goes, "Why don’t you get out your Beemer and suck my big Nig… you know what. He wasn’t talking about his watermelon rind. And this isn’t like me, but I said, Why don’t you take that tiny N-word D-word of yours and shove it right up your filthy Nigger ass.

He throws the slice of watermelon to the ground, gets up, and starts walking over to the car. Now I wanted to just hit the gas, but the light was red and there was cross traffic, and I didn’t think to raise the window. He comes right up to my car…and spits in my face…and turns around, and calls me–ME–a little bitch f-ing whore.

The light turned green and I hit the gas and I looked in my rear view mirror and saw him turn and drop his filthy pants and, well, moon me. And he wasn’t very clean.

And then, I did something that… Well, I don’t know where it came from. It was something I couldn’t have even imagined, it was so completely unlike me. I… What I did was… What I did was–without even thinking about it–was…I just slammed on the brakes, and then…and then my hand fell to the gear shift. My hand, it locked onto the gear shift and–I still can’t believe it–it locked onto the gear shift, and I put the car in reverse. I put the car in reverse in an instant without even thinking about it. And I floored it. I floored it, jamming the accelerator right down to the metal…

Well, I don’t know what… I don’t know if… I don’t know if it was me or fate or luck, but I didn’t. I actually put the car in neutral and didn’t do anything I’d regret even more. Something I’d regret so much I could have never admitted it to my little girl…or anyone. I just yelled out the window, "Fuck you, Nigger." Because that’s what I believed he was. And I drove off…shaking.

Look, I know racism is wrong. In theory. Well, I imagine in reality, too. And I know that just because I grew up with Southern parents, I don’t have an excuse. But when you think about it, we can’t escape it.

Say you’re in the middle of downtown LA, walking in the dead of night on Skid Row, and a black man were to walk across the street towards you, carrying a knife. You would be just as nervous as the next person. I know that’s true.

Now, take away the knife.

Now put Skid Row in a small town. Right?

Now make it any ol’ abandoned street.

Now, make it not even nighttime, just dusk, and the street isn’t empty, but almost.

You see what I’m saying. We all feel that fear. And if we all fear it, how irrational can it be?

Now say back in college, you were in that exact situation (small town, dusk) and a strange black man pulled you by your hair into an alley and beat you and raped you. Even though the statistics say that you’ll be raped by a friend or someone you know. Say that didn’t happen, but this did.

I know all this should be easy, and I should be a better example to my family. I know I’m not good at this, and that I should be different, but really I just had a bad day today and said something I shouldn’t have said. And maybe I shouldn’t be sorry because he was really out of line too, but I am. Because it should be easy even if you don’t feel that way, even if maybe it’s justified, not to use the N-word. But I swear–on my daughter’s tiny black heart–it wasn’t.



[Back to Library] Home