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 16 or 17.
“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. El Bummerino 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 in such a derogatory way.” 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 of the bum; he professes to be happy, but hatred courses through his veins. He uses the n-word all the time. El Bummerino repeatedly asked him not to, even though the majority of the conversations were in the offender’s home. The bum wishes that just one time he would have really put his peer in his place after he used that terrible term. He should have told him how ignorant he sounded.
Maybe writing about the beach 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.