by Kung Fu Zu 7/29/15
Some thirty years ago, on one of my business trips to New York, I took a cab from La Guardia to Manhattan. My mind being elsewhere, I neglected to tell the driver to go via the Midtown Tunnel. Before I knew it, we were traveling through an area I had not seen previously. And what I saw was shocking. We drove by neighborhoods which resembled the remaining bombed out façades I had seen on some of the back streets in East Berlin in 1973. Not a few third world country ghettos were less depressing than the slag heap we were driving through.
I sat in back, silently taking in the decay and destruction, wondering how such a place could exist in the USA. After a few minutes, I asked the driver our location and what all those crumbling buildings were? He told me we were in the South Bronx and that the buildings were remnants of housing projects. We talked a little more before I asked the obvious question, “How could this type of thing happen and who was responsible for the state of such buildings?” Without a moment’s hesitation, my driver somewhat heatedly replied, “It’s the damn niggers!”
I could not help but raise my eyebrows at his statement as the driver was the color of 80% dark chocolate. As I was about to delve into his remark he followed up with, “Me, I’m from Haiti.” He then began to discourse along the lines that the stupid people had ruined their own homes, etc., etc.
So there it was, being a “nigger” was not a question of color to this very black man. Rather it was a question of one’s behavior, culture if you will. Vandalism and criminality were not to be practiced or admired. Clearly, this man did not feel any kinship with those who had destroyed the area we were driving through. No doubt, he saw himself as an individual who was given the chance to improve himself in this country regardless of his pigmentation.
We kept talking during the rest of the ride, but I do not recall anything which was said after we crossed over on to Manhattan. What has stayed with me was thought that the man did not pretend a wrong was right or justifiable simply because people of his race had perpetrated the evil. Clearly to his mind, it wasn’t the color of one’s skin which made one a success, rather it was one’s ethic. This lesson has never left me. • (1171 views)