Friday, July 19, 2013

How many ni**as do you know, Ivan?

On Thursday nights I head out to a club near Ohio State campus. Coming to Charlie Bear is a strange habit because I don't dance or try to socialize, instead I just stand back and people-watch. Club music has a soothing effect on me and watching drunk college kids dance can be entertaining. On its best night, Charlie Bear is a like a Noah's Ark of white people dancing poorly to rap music, there are two specimens of each imaginable type of bad dancing

At this time of the year the college is out of session and the club is almost empty. Devoid of its usual zoo atmosphere, Charlie Bear loses much of its appeal to me. But I still come to check it out. The doorman often waives me thru without looking at my driver's licence. I am a regular.

Often -as a few lonely figures twerk awkwardly to the music- I sit on the make-out couch by the unoccupied stripper pole and read the New York Times on my phone.

Today, after reading an article on the bankruptcy of Detroit and finishing my beer, I decided to close my tab and head home. Since I was leaving at one am, which is early for me, I thought it would be a good idea to take a quick walk along the main strip of college bars.

On my journey, I encountered three white dudes who were asking a passing girl something. She walked on ignoring their questions.

As she left they turned their drunkenly-earnest attention to me.

"Hey man," a red-faced dude asked, "how do we get to Charlie Bear?"

I pointed in the direction and explained where it is.

"We're from St Louis" the other bro explained.

"Oh, St Louis" I said by way of acknowledgment. Yeah, St Louis... a city for which I have no frame of reference whatsoever.

"How come that girl didn't talk to us?" he asked with a befuddled expression, clearly a little wounded by the rejection.

I don't know, I thought to myself, maybe it had something to do with a vague possibility of gang rape.

The first bro opened a small metal box and revealed its context to me. I looked at a neat arrangement of tiny paper pouches.

"Do you want some?"

"What is it?" I asked.

It was chewing tobacco. St Louis and chewing tobacco are two great examples of things I never think about. As I was weighing the pros and cons of his offer, a third guy approached me.

He got really close to me and the question he asked me took my mind off of chewing tobacco real quick.

"Hey, do you know a lot of niggas around here?"

Here I reacted like the Obama-voter that I am. My expression probably changed and I said something like, "no, I don't use that word" as I shifted to move away from him.

"No, no, no," he said, "Not niggers! Niggas, niggAs, niggAAAs, you know, like the CNN. You know the CNN interview."

"Yeah, CNN, I know," I said. I knew that he was referring to a recent interview with Rachel Jeantel -a friend of Trayvon Martin- on CNN where she said that the term "nigga" could be used to describe a person of any race. This was picked up by Rush Limbaugh who celebrated the fact that he could now use a variation of the n-word without being considered a racist.

The dude reacted positively to my recognition of his reference as if I just stripped open my shirt to reveal a tattoo of George Zimmerman on my chest.

"Oh you know! You know what I am talking about!" he said with a smile as he put his hand on my shoulder, "You're a nigga... I'm a nigga!"

This where the liberal sour-puss Ivan had to put an end to this outburst of camaraderie. "No, man," I said, "just fuck off."

The St Louis group and I parted ways. I was headed in one direction to finish my aimless walk and the n-word enthusiasts were presumably following my directions to Charlie Bear which was in the middle of having its regular Hip-Hop night.

As they were walking away my eyes met with an older black man, he was shaking his head.

"They're fucked up" I said by way of explanation. It was clear to me that right before the last guy approached me with his line of inquiry, he was asking this random stranger if he knew a lot of "niggas" around here.

To top off the night, as I was driving out of the parking garage I saw five bicycle cops arresting a black guy in khaki shorts, his friend stood by with some sort of a ticket issued by the police officers.

My car stereo was playing Nas' latest album, Life is Good. In the middle of my drive home I switched the music to Snoop Dogg's first effort, Doggystyle, an often unappreciated 90's classic. "Gangsta rap never sounded so sweet" is how a critic described that album and it was blaring thru my speakers as I shut off the engine after parking the Acura in my carport.

Stay tuned for more of Ivan's fantastic adventures in post-racial America.

1 comment:

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