Sunday, February 23, 2014

190. Perspectives

He was an elderly African-American man who appeared to be in need of a meal. He wore faded overalls, a khaki shirt, and ragged work shoes that had lost their form decades ago. His hands were calloused and a stubble of white beard covered his face. He was sitting in my favorite chair watching television.

“C.W.,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Politics,” he said. “Why are people so worked up?”

“About what?”

“Things,” he said.

“What things?”

“Say … income inequality.”

“It’s complicated,” I said. “But some people feel that we are headed for a French Revolution-type revolt if the working class lives on starvation wages while the ruling class owns practically all of the wealth.”

He nodded. “What about wage discrimination?”

“Well there again,” I said. “There is a significant difference between what a man and a woman earn for doing the same job.”

“I see.”

“Anything else?”

“They seem to be upset about voting rights’”

“Oh yes,” I said. “Some want to make it harder for certain groups, say students, to vote.”

“I can see how that would upset people,” He said. Then he changed the subject. “What is this thing called ‘zoning’ all about?”


“Yes. What cities do.”

“It is about the control of land use,” I said. “It covers things from building heights to what types of uses are allowed in a certain location.”

“And it upsets folks?”

“Sometimes,” I said. “Why do you ask?”

“Was watching the news about some wild meeting a city near here. Neighbors were upset that a development designed for the elderly was to be built next to them.”

“Oh,” I said. “Some folks can get upset about anything, even the type of people living near them. Certain people don't like the elderly, it would appear.”

“It would appear," he said. "Now the government in some place called Arizona wants to allow business owners to refuse service to groups they don’t like.”

“Quite so,” I said.

“And it has people agitated.”

“Some people, yes.”

He exhaled, expanding his cheeks as he did. Then he bit his lower lip as he lost himself in thought. After a moment, he looked toward me. “Folks are getting pretty angry.” He said it partly in question and partly as a statement of fact.

“Pretty angry,” I said.

“More so than usual.”

“That seems to be the case,” I said.

He said. “Want to know what I think?”

“About what?”

“About why these things are upsetting folks more than usual.” He rubbed the stubble on his face with a huge black hand.

Sometimes it seems to me that life in America
just depends on what side on the river you are
born on. - C.W.
“Enlighten me,” I said.




I waited.

He looked off and then back at me. “It all sounds familiar to someone like me,” he said.

I thought. “I suppose it does.”

“Know what is different this time?”


“This time they are doing it to white folks.”

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