Here kids, here’s something you can read in English class and hate while your English teacher swoons about how special it is. It’s just a story about how one time I was in New Orleans, I was hanging out with this bum, just talking on the street, and this other bum came up and they started arguing not really over anything, they just had this look in their eyes, and it was like they weren’t going to argue in front of me because I wasn’t one of them. And one of them says to the other one, hey man, give me a hug and the other one got right up like he was in a hurry, and they threw their arms around each other hard, and I realized it wasn’t the kind of hug like I’d ever given anybody, or like anyone had ever given me, but they were fighting, fighting in plain sight without anyone being able to tell if they weren’t paying attention, because inside that hug they were pushing that each other and squeezing as hard as they could, and eventually one of them lost control and picked the one I had been talking to up off the ground and slammed him down on the step so that his back cracked on the edge of it. And that’s when I decided I should call the police, and I did, just sitting there on the other end of that very same step I called the police, I dialed nine-one-one, and I told them everything that I just told you, except for the part about the hug because it seemed like that would take too long to explain.
And the lady on the other end of the line, she didn’t sound real worried at all, she said where are you and I told her and she said where they and I told her that too and she said describe the man who picked the other man up, and so I described him, I said he was wearing a green corduroy jacket and that he had a big beard and then he was about 6 foot 2 inches and I think I even might have told her what kind of shoes he had on. He was standing right next to me listening to me the whole time. And she said but describe him to me though, and so I said it all over again and I added some extra details about the jacket, which was unusual. But describe him to me though she said again and I said what is it that you want me to tell you? Is it something in particular? And she said no, just describe him. And I thought maybe she might be messing with me, asking me that question over and over again, but if so there was nothing I could do about it anyway, because she was already the police. And that would be a strange way to entertain yourself, asking someone a question over and over. So I kept describing him as best as I could, I told her he had sort of larger-than-average teeth, and a narrow nose, and salt-and-pepper hair, but I didn’t want to go into too much detail and make the man self-conscious. I was sitting right next to him, and looking at him I couldn’t think of much to say about how he looked that was nice or even neutral. But it didn’t seem like there was anything I could say that would make the police lady happy with my description, and it wasn’t until later that I realized she was waiting for me to tell her what color he was, so she could decide whether or not she should send out someone to arrest him. Now you all can discuss what that must have been like for me, and for him, and if you’re really unlucky for homework you’ll have to write an essay from his perspective. And maybe you’ll find it strange how racist we all used to be, and discuss that too, and what all of this means, but you’ll miss the point. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just something that happened, just like everything else, that’s all.