I have always had hiding spots all over Detroit. Why? Because sometime I need a space where no one knows me just to unwind. An out of the way, hole in the wall bar usually works perfectly. These days, a conversation I had at one such hideaway comes to mind.
I never got his name and I don’t remember if I gave him mine or not. He was an old school dude somewhere around my Dad’s age. His walk was aided by a cane but maintained a style about himself that made him a man of distinction. He knew everyone in the bar from the owner on down. I tried to avoid him as much as possible. Getting to know him meant the end of my obscurity. I later learned that I was wrong. In fact, his words would carry a message impossible to forget.
My beer was near empty and my time there nearly at an end, it was then he bought me another. He had my thanks but what he wanted was my attention. After some small talk, he rolled up his sleeve and pointed to the scars on his arm. He began to tell his story. He talked about the water hoses, the protests, and the police dog that bit him. He said the scars looked bad because his “Ole Lady” patched him up and she wasn’t no damn nurse!
A burst of laughter between us broke the tension of his tale but he resumed without missing a step. He went on to say that he was proud of all of it because our future was hanging in the balance. He took a sip of his drink looked at me with all seriousness. He said ” There are some things Black folks do that make me regret it.”. I was blown away but I kept my shock down to absorb the lesson he was about to put down.
He went on to elaborate on all the things he loves African Americans have accomplished. Those things were the reason he got out and endured the riot. He went on to say its the things black folks do to each other that give him resentment. He said he wanted Black folks to be free to pursue whatever their heart’s desire without prejudice. What pissed him off was the way Black folks were prejudice against each other. He said “I wish I had that dog that bit my ass to sic on those fools! Those people don’t deserve my sacrifices.”. He had had another sip. I kept silent. His wisdom writing itself in my thoughts. He pointed to the scars on his arm and said “Be whatever you want to be, I paid for it. but be good to your own even if you don’t agree with them.”. He patted me on the back and paid my tab.
I haven’t seen him in years and that hole in the wall is now closed. However his words stuck in my mind like King Arthur’s sword stuck in stone. So when I see this new black “Woke” moment attack other Black folks, his words resurface. When I see Black folks attacking Black LGBT folks, I wonder do they realize that they are only recreating the same oppression White folks impressed upon us. Ignorance creates ignorance and within our community, it’s rampant! I wish that guy was around to give African Americans the talk he gave me. The question being Would you listen? If you wouldn’t, then maybe the scars on his arms were truly in vain.
The Rogue Negro