Racism at the Hartfield, VA YMCA

Yesterday I published a piece on this blog about how disappointing humanity is in the grand scheme of history and potential. It was a simple piece, and it barely scratches the surface of my thoughts in the matter–I need more philosophy first. But early this morning I experienced a moment of how pathetic humans can be. 

This is the first of what might be several writings about the subject in other more notable publications. But for today, thanks for reading this: 

I don’t even know how to write about this. It is one thing to address the horrific conditions of the planet and of humanity in large terms—noting the genocide and hatred which has permeated since the beginning of it all—and question how we can continue to believe we are anything worthy of redemption. Individually perhaps, but as a whole? There is no proof.

It is something else altogether to experience this hatred, or better explained, overhear the small-brained among us converse.

This morning at the Y I rode my favorite bike which has no headphone jack. I don’t mind it so much since at this hour the news shows remind me of things I go to the Y to forget for a while, but today I was subject to a conversation of two men on other bikes. Since this just happened an hour ago, this dialogue is close to exact:

“Did the Skins win this week?”

“I don’t know.”

“I was wondering if last night everyone stood for the flag.”

“I hope so.”

A brief pause while the second man (I almost called him gentleman) looked around to note the three of us, all white, were the only ones around.

“The problem is the n……”


“They’ve been a problem since we brought them here.”

“Damn right.”

“I heard something like sixty-five of those n….. were killed in Chicago this past weekend, and I thought, ‘well that’s a good start.”

Laughter among them both. At this point I couldn’t decide whether to say something, leave, or get on the treadmill and plug in my headphones to watch something less stressful, like the Manafort trial update.

Then this:

“I need to start attending meetings again.”

“You should. We miss you there.”

“I wish I could be up in Washington this weekend.”

“Yeah, especially now with Trump. He’s gonna get rid of those colored. Every last dang one of ‘em.”

I read once to never suppress anger; it isn’t healthy. So, okay…I had to say something.


“What’s that?”

“That’s really pretty repulsive, the way you guys are talking about other people.”

“We aren’t talking about other people. We talking about n…..” “Yeah, mind your own business.”

I can’t figure out which is worse, that they are ignorant, or that they actually went to school.

“You know, Bob, you can just…”

“I was going to mind my own business. I can’t figure out if I should just keep my mouth shut and let us all think the way we want to think, which is absolutely how it should work in this country, or if I should go home and do what it is I do and write about you guys for the Sentinel (local paper) or the Washington Post, or anywhere to show that racism is alive and well in Deltaville.”

“Why don’t you mind your own business.”

I thought of Marley’s ghost when he stands up and screams at Scrooge, “Mankind was my business! The common welfare was my business!” Instead I apologized for interrupting but continued to talk to myself, loud enough for them to hear, while I rode the bike, and occasionally I directed my quiet tirade at them:

“Unbelievable. Unreal. I’m here with two grown, mature men who are stupid enough to think they’re better than others. Geez I’m sick of this. (to them) How is it possible that you can be so ignorant!? Where’d you learn to hate like that?! (to myself again) unreal. I’m writing about this, I’ll send it to the Washington Post. Geez, (to them) You guys read the Washington Post (I laugh). I’m writing about you guys. Someone’s got to shed light on how wide spread this problem is.”

I rode the treadmill for a while with one headphone in, the other dangling, and they were silent the whole time except to talk about the Redskins. I wanted to leave right away to get some work done so I went to them before I left and said, “Hey, Guys, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so rude, I really didn’t. Just caught me at a bad time.” And they laughed and said of course and they weren’t awake yet either and no problem and blah and blah and felt very fine and good and all that, and I said, “But seriously, with no due respect at all, I’m writing about this. I’ll give you a head’s up when I know when and where it will be in print. The way you two talk and think about brothers of ours is repulsive. Have a good workout.”

And I left. Is it too early for a drink?


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