Thursday, December 01, 2005

A snowball's chance

Following PBW's lead, I've decided to give you a story for Blog About Racism Day: When I was eight, my dad took our family up to see the snow. We didn't get snow in LA -- you had to drive two hours to have even a vaguely frosty experience. One of his fellow high school teachers, a black guy named Chuck, invited us up to spend the day at his cabin. Chuck had a son who was maybe one or two years older than me. We hit it off immediately. My brother is seven years older than me; growing up, I often had the feeling he would rather do anything than play with me. Not this kid. Chuck's son spent the whole morning showing me around the cabin, entertaining me, generally being an all-around cool guy. After lunch, we had to hike across the snow for some reason. Chuck wanted to show us something. The adults trudged ahead, the kids lagged behind. I thought it would be fun to have a snowball fight (no doubt thinking, isn't that what we're supposed to do in the snow?), so I tossed one at Chuck's son and missed by a mile. He retaliated, and nailed me in the face with a fist-sized snowball, hard enough to knock my glasses off. Chuck looked back just in time to see this. He didn't know that I'd started the fight, and he didn't ask me if I was hurt. I think he assumed the worst. He started ripping into his son, making the kid feel about two inches tall. I'm sure I tried to stammer out some sort of explanation when Chuck first got rolling, but I don't think I got very far. "Just leave him alone," Chuck told his son, who did just that. The rest of the afternoon, I was on my own. Maybe this story has nothing to do with racism, but I think it does. I don't think Chuck would have blown up at his son if I were another black kid. But I'm white, so he had a different standard for how his son should behave. I felt sad all afternoon. I'd lost a friend, and I was sure it was my fault. I couldn't even bring myself to apologize. It's one of those weird, lingering, regret-filled memories. No happy ending. D.


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