On a patch of grass outside the Greyhound Station, Redlands, CA, sometime in 1980. Lanky man with thin, dirty brown hair greased back. Dirty overalls. Appalachian accent: West Virginia, maybe, or Tennessee. Watching a young black woman walk with her daughter.
"Them niggers sure are ugly. Don't you think?"
You look at him carefully. Dull blue eyes without motion. K-Mart tennis shoes with holes. Worker bee: the overalls suggest a garage mechanic. Could have been your grandfather or one of his brothers, at twenty-five or so.
"Well," you reply. Your tone is neutral, neither friendly nor unfriendly. "She's a fuck of a lot better looking than you are."
Tall woman, mid-twenties, African-American, strong, an athlete or a soldier. Burgundy bellbottoms, white chain belt, black tanktop. Commands the sidewalk like a cop, or a predator: the people leave a wide space around her. With her girlfriend on Third Street downtown, San Francisco, looking in the window of one of the large gunshops there.
"Gonna buy me a weapon," she says, loudly, as you pass. Voice hard, carries. "Gonna shoot me one of these crackers."
Rodney King's tear-streaked face. The Los Angeles uprising, April 1992. "Can't we all just get along, people?"