It was a usual Sunday as I parked in front of a local store known for dairy products. The Sunday paper and a Win for Life ticket and I’m done. In front of me was a big African American kid about 19, he looked like he could play football and mow people over on the field. He was polite to the cashier and said “thank you” as she rang him up.
People including myself have said things about the sagging pant syndrome affecting kids today or chuckled as someone waddles across the street, pants threatening to leave their bodies behind. I jokingly commented to the clerk, “I don’t know why kids wear their pants like that, oh well?”
As I reach my car I noticed a man had just exited a sports utility vehicle and the passenger door was knocked up against my car. Okay, perhaps he wasn’t aware of the closeness of the vehicles. In addition to having his door up against my car he was blocking my way.
As I walked towards my vehicle I said, “Hey, your door is leaning against my car!”
I expected a simple “oh, sorry, my … ” but instead, I encountered a 6 foot unrepentant white man who looked at me and denied everything as he purposely banged it again.
“Did I hurt your little car, let me wipe it with a napkin,” he said.
So, now it appeared as though I was in the middle of a confrontation, as he then used his body to block my way.
I was pissed to say the least, and said, “look, just get outta my way so I can get out of here.” By then the confrontation had run it’s course, or so I thought.
Unbeknownst to me, the African American kid had been listening to the entire heated conversation/confrontation. Before I could say another word, he pounced between me and the guy from the S.U.V. getting in his face and shouting, “Now talk to me that way, alright, talk to me like you just spoke to him. He told you to get away from his car, don’t- you- know -I’ll- snuff- you.”
Suddenly, instead of quickly leaving the scene, I found myself “talking-down” the kid so he wouldn’t start mopping the parking lot with this idiot who was either, drunk or stupid or a combination of both.
After what seemed like an eternity, the situation was starting to calm down, the S.U.V. passenger began a slow retreat as I continued to shout “it’s not worth it, it’s not worth it, it’s not worth it.” I don’t know how many times I said, “It’s not worth it,” but put it to a disco beat and you’ll have a hit on iTunes.
Just then, as if on a cue from Hollywood, a blue car careens around the corner with a badly bleached blond elderly woman who bore a striking resemblance to Granny on the Beverly Hillbilly’s, “I seen everything, I seen everything, I’m calling the police. I seen it, I seen it.”
So, now add a little volcanic spark to the simmering Sunday situation, a screeching white woman with straw hair, two black men on either side of a white man who’s backing away.
As an African-American man I know, especially in the Tipp Hill area, if there’s a problem the black guy’s going down for it.
Finally the kid, my champion, listens. He gets in his car to leave but not before saying to me, “Don’t ever let a white man talk to you that way, what’s wrong with you?”
Many of us have painted a picture of our young people based on appearances and not substance. Their pants hang low; their music is loud and other silly things that are just symptomatic of us getting older. Remember how Elvis shaking his hips and marrying out side your race, was going to destroy America? Just like today’s hyperbole that gay marriage will force the planets to collide.
The incident at the store known for dairy products has renewed my shattered faith in our youth. In my life I’ve gone before the NAACP, member’s of the Syracuse Common Council and have written unanswered letters to the mayor; all of these entities gave me chit chat while running in place. Compare all those hoity-toity people, to one young man coming to my defense. Okay maybe it was foolhardy, but also impressive to say the least.
Without solicitation, someone young enough to be my grandson is willing to fight for me, a total stranger. It gave me some twisted sense of hope.
I will no longer judge a brother by what he’s wearing. It all goes back to Dr. King and being judged by the content of your character.
Ken Jackson is the editor of UrbanCNY.com. He was awarded the Syracuse Press Clubs “Best Column” Non-Daily Newspapers in 2008. And his Web site urbancny.com was recognized for public service for the second year in a row.