Friday, July 19, 2013

Blurred Lines

I’ve been thinking since Saturday about race.  About how perfect black men look in a white T-shirt.  About how people in Harlem wait patiently for long minutes for a bus to take them maybe 5 or 10 blocks.  About not really complaining about the heat the way white people do. About why I swipe in black teenagers at subway turnstiles because they don’t say thank you.  They don’t even look at you.  Gratitude in a situation like this is unbearable.  A deterrent.

Last night I was on a packed uptown 2 at midnight and a great looking black woman had her maybe 18-month-old kid in a stroller.  Big enough to know what he wants, but not to ask for it.  Still has that baby mouth pout.  No chance is she going to fold this thing up, as per regulations, nor is anyone going to ask her.  She has gang tattoos and her midsection is bare.  She is wearing short shorts and Nikes and is buff and sexy and tough and her kid is yelling his head off because it is claustrophobic and he is at knee-level, strapped in, surrounded by sweaty tall people.  She doesn’t even flinch.  I am waving and playing peek-a-boo with him, and he is trying hard, but he can’t help panicking.  After all, when you are 18 months old, every moment is permanent, for all you know.  No one is telling him it will get better at 125th Street; his mother is a tigress.  So this guy gets on the train… clean white wifebeater, tattoos, Daddy B shades… takes his earbuds out and puts them in the kids’ ear, hands over his iphone….finds some U.E.O.N.O….whatever… the kid is frozen… dead quiet.  No pacifier, no snow-cone or lollipop could do this.  3 stops later, he is getting off and takes back the iphone.  The mother?  She doesn’t flinch.  No eye-contact, no gratitude.  For me?  The good-hearted sympathetic middle-aged mothery white lady?  I get up and she gives me the smallest version of a smile…maybe not.  Anyway, I give one to her.  She is my idol of the moment.

Maybe it’s because I married a black man once---  but I don’t fear thugs.  I can’t get enough of them—the physical beauty, the style— what it represents-- -the ultimate tough soldier-macho thing… the obvious appeal Hip-Hop has for rich white kids.  No matter how much money they have, no matter how much power or success, how many women, how big their dick is--- white kids don’t walk in the hood alone after midnight.  But there is a certain safety that comes with middle age… no one is leering at me on trains, licking their lips in bad neighborhoods, touching and threatening.  I’m invisible. 

The young guys in my local Starbucks… sweet and attentive, hard-working and polite.  When I see them on the street, with their aprons off and their hoodies on—a different animal.  My husband pre-dated Hip-Hop.  Yes, he was a musician, and yes, white women threw themselves at him because he was dangerous.  Yes, he rocked my world literally.  Sometimes I could look at him objectively—after he went running with his dreadlocks and his glistening body—and I could appraise his physical power, his total composure and refusal to get upset or neurotic the way white men do.  Except when he played soccer, he slowed things down.  Easier to admire his wild and instinctual MO when I am not married to him, as these men in the white T-shirts, for the most part, do not seem like conventional good-husband material.  They seem unattached and unphased… life is there, in the moment. 

It took a bullying twisted cowardly asshole with a gun to get a child like Trayvon to scream.  And wasn’t that enough?  To get a scream out of him?  A little blood?  He didn’t run, that boy.  He fought the odds.  I can’t get it out of my head.  All the great sex he will not have—who knows what was on his mind before his life took that hellish turn and some sick perverted non-black man who knows he will never ‘get it’ decided the thrill of some primal hunt would ‘make his day’, would turn back a racial clock that didn’t need rewinding. 

Sunday evening I stopped by Union Square.  My demonstrating days are way over, and I can’t say I took any comfort in the company of a mixed crowd who were equally angry and sad.   Instead I took a train up to Harlem… walked around.  It felt calm and solid.  White people are guests there.  It is its own kind of gated community.  I actually stopped to watch a neighborhood basketball game in one of the community courts, with the blaring boombox and the Gatorade and the girls primping and laughing, just like Florida didn’t exist.  An outsider in the Projects.  At first I had a few stares—what the fuck was I doing, some white bleeding heart psycho… but it was too hot.  Some grandmother actually offered me  Kool-aid in a Dixie cup.  The game was fun… the boys had their shirts rolled up to cool off their great young abs and each and every player had their own style.  They were safe here.  Everyone seemed okay. Calm. 

I walked back thinking how some white people still fear black people.  Instinctively---are they taught this?  Like animals and their natural predators?  And black people embraced this, for a while… being perceived as the predator.  But now the President is black (well… almost)… and maybe Superman,  and some of the power-broker people in New York, and white rich kids of course take most of their fashion and music cues from uptown.  But most of all, I think the core of being cool is to not be afraid, and that’s what George Zimmerman will never admit, along with his primal murderous guilt: that any average black kid--- with his iphone and his body--- is cooler than he could ever be, and no violent victory or acquittal will ever make a champion out of a poor pathetic loser.  Don’t retract your words, Victor Cruz.  Your instinct was right.  Fierce you are.  Fierce you were, Trayvon.  Trayvon I was.   May you rest in oblivious peace but justice will at some point have to be done.

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