Four girls walked down the beach, all of whom were black.
One was ranting about men — or one man in particular. “That n****r a fool. Why she want to go back to a n****r that gonna treat her that way? He only gonna keep doin’ it again and again.”
The bum has little time for racial epitaphs. Especially not in his church. He’s been known to correct acquaintances when they step over the line and use the n-word.
He wagged his finger and spoke directly to the teenager in a calm, emotionless tone as they passed each other. “Hey, hey. That’s an ugly word.”
“Yeah, well, I am one,” she answered. She was probably sixteen or seventeen.
“Yeah, but don’t be using that word.”
“Everyone else does.”
Nothing more was said. The girls didn’t seem threatened and they went on their way. The bum resumed searching for shell beds. That’s where the sharks teeth usually are — among the shell shards, pebbles, stone and pieces of bone.
He knew right away that he had made a mistake. Not by scolding the girl. He had no regrets about that. His mistake was in the way he responded.
Instead of saying, “Yeah, but don’t be using that word,” he should have said, “No, you aren’t. You’re a beautiful young girl with a lot going for you. Don’t label yourself with such a derogatory term.” Or something along those lines.
He felt worse as the day passed. By saying, “Yeah, but..,” he, in a sense, was confirming the racial epitaph. It just goes to show you that we all need to work a little on our biases. Actually, there are many people out there who need to work on it a lot. One, JR, is a former friend; he professes to be happy, but hatred courses through his veins.
Maybe writing about the incident was the bum’s way of dealing with his subconscious indiscretion.
Skin color should be irrelevant now. There are so many other things about which to worry. Oops. Did it again. Skin color should never have been relevant. Skin is just skin, man. Character matters. Heart matters.