I want to eat
I'm starting to get a sense of how women feel sometimes when they go places, right? Because while I'm in this restaurant, I'm looking for signs of safety. I'm looking at the exits. I'm looking at who's in the restaurant and all this stuff. So, I walk into the restaurant, and I sit down at the bar. It's, I don't know, it's probably about 10:30 almost 11:00. I had a lot of errands to do, so I just thought I'd just run in and grab a bite to eat. And so, I'm sitting there and what I notice is there's a guy at the end of the bar, and this guy is drunk, I mean, just toasted, red nose, slurred speech, the whole nine. And it's not even noon yet.
So, I'm sitting there, and I notice this guy. I don't know about you, but I always have to aware of drunk people around me. So, I'm aware of this guy. And so, I'm sitting there and I get my menu and I'm looking at the menu and chit chatting with the bar staff and all this kind of stuff. I make my decision. I fold my menu. I give it to the bar staff.
In that short amount of time, the guy that was at the end of the bar is now sitting next to me. And so, I don't know how you are about drunk people, but I'm always aware of them. And so, in my processing there were two things that became real clear to me. One was that this place, he considers home because he's this drunk this early in the morning.
The second thing that occurred to me was that the bar staff, the people who work there know this dude because they wouldn't let him get this drunk otherwise. So, the dude's sitting next to me. We start talking about man stuff, scratching and spitting and we're men. And then, he breaks into the thousus of why he came to sit next to me.
He sits there and he looks over at me in the middle of our conversation. He says, "You know what? I don't like the "n" word." Now, he did not say the "n" word. He actually said that derogatory terms that many of your grandparents refer to as Brazil nuts, what they call Brazil nuts.
That's what he said, the "n" word, the derogatory word that people don't say. The word that white people get confused about because if they say it, it's bad and they think that when black people say it, it's cool or good. That word, the "n" word, the word you're not supposed to say. He says it to me in the bar.
And so, he says I don't like the "n" word. My first reaction is, what do I say to that? What a heck of an introduction. So, he's sitting there and he says I don't like the "n" word, and so I try to change the subject. I say, hey, let's talk about baseball. Let's talk about the team. And something in my spirit said, well, go back to that. Ask him some questions.
And so, I asked him some follow up questions. I said, well, when you talk about the "n" word as you describe those folks, how would you describe them? What would you say about those "n" folks? What do you really mean when you say the "n" word?
And he said, well, when I talk about the "n" word, I'm thinking ghetto, uneducated, illiterate, uncouth. So, he has this whole litany of bad things of what it means to be the "n" word.
And so, I asked him, do you know any white people who would fit that description that he gave, ghetto, uncouth, illiterate, blah, blah, blah, and he looks at me and he goes, yeah.
And so I say, how about baseball? Let's talk about baseball. And so, we start talking about baseball again and he leans over to me. And he says, you know what? I don't like the "n" word but I like you. This is one of those mixed compliments that I'm never quite sure what to do with. It's kind of like, in spite of the fact of what you are, I like you. So, I wasn't quite sure what to do with this. I'm like, what do you say to that?
And so, I just ask him a follow‑up question. I say, "Well, what is it about me that you like?" And he says to me, "Well, you are well spoken. You seem educated. You've got just a great personality." And so, he came up with another list of pretty good things about me.
And so, I turned to him and say, "Well, what if all of the people that you have met, that you described as that N word. What if all of those people that you've met were idiots? What if they were all idiots? And everybody else that you haven't met yet is just like me." And he looked and he turns to me and he looks and he says, "I got to pee." So, he stumbles out to the restroom and I'm great.
I'm so excited. I'm ready to go. I'm just like oh, yes, we're on a good note and that I can get out of here, right? Now, I don't know if this has ever happened to you but it certainly happened to me. Every time that I go to leave, there is not bar staff anywhere. There is no restaurant staff anywhere. And they are taking their time but I figured out the secret.
So, what I did was I took my keys out of my pocket and I jingle them and it is so funny, they seem to run like Pavlov's dog when they think I'm about to leave, right? So, I finally get the check and I'm excited. I'm about to leave and the guy is coming out of the bathroom at the same time. But there's something different about him, this particular time.
I mean I'm looking at him and he's got droplets of water on his face. He has his hair combed over and he just seems a little more sober. I mean it is just crazy. He was like... I almost had to ask myself, is this the same dude, right? So, he walks over to me and he has this damp paper towel. And he leans over to me and he says, "My name is Ron. If you ever need fresh eggs, give me a call."
Now what did you say to that, right? So, I take the towel and say, "Thank you, Ron. My name is Andre and hopefully, I will see you around." And I went my way and he went his way. Now, what do you think the lesson was in that story which is a true story, by the way? Yeah, often times, when we tell our folks that we would say our races or bigotry, we right them off.
I mean what I have been within my rights to give this guy a piece of my mind. You don't call me that and we are... And just gone after him with both barrels. Would I have been within my rights? Tons of people would say yes.
And in another situation, I might agree with that. However, had I gone off on that guy, had I given that guy a piece of my mind, what would have been the result? I would have confirmed every negative thing that he thought about people who hear things look like me.
So, I'm not asking you to do what I do. I'm not saying that you have to take things that are outside of yourself, that you have to put yourself at risk or not being respected. But what I will offer you and what I will challenge you is to oftentimes try and see what the lesson is. I don't know if I have changed that man's life forever. He may feel the same way. He may still use those words.
But one thing I do know is that the next time he goes to use that word, the next time he goes to interact with someone who he thinks looks just like me, he will think about the encounter that we had. It is my hope that he'll make better and different decisions. What do people say about your life in your encounters?
Andre's purpose is to reconnect people to their Dignity and Honor in Being Human.
We are never far
nurturing the seeds of change
Andre Koen, Facilitator
Conference call 218.852.6114 ext. 823042
Online training www.organizationallift.com
This Drives Our Work:
- Unity of the Individual(s)
- Goal Orientation
- Race as Construct
- Self-Determination and Uniqueness
- Social Context
- The Feeling of Community
- Mental Health/Wealth
- Individual Striving
- Social/Individual Interest