“Look at you all smart and shit” I hear from across the parking lot. The voice as well as the man are unmissable. Daryl jobs over puddles, which after the non-stop rain are more the norm rather than the exception to the rule.
“Only white boys think to bring an umbrella,” he says. I look at him strangely as I almost always do after words leave his mouth.
“How so?” I ask.
“How many brotha’s you see out here in the rain?” Daryl asks. I looked around and didn’t notice any black people, which is strange, especially considering I was around the math building which Daryl and every other black person on campus I’ve talked to refer to as ‘the metro line.’
“You won’t see brothas chillin’ like that anywhere else on campus,” he explains. I have no idea why this is, but the math building seems to be the pinochle of diversity at our school; a place where African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians can outnumber whites with such frightening regularity that some white professors actually go out of their way to avoid that “scene” as one blatantly racist professor explained to me one day.
“It’s like a white boy congregation with the umbrellas, man” he tells me. “It’s like you guys are psychic or some shit.”
“We check the weather,” I explain. As we walk towards the library I quietly wonder to myself why black people aren’t fond of umbrellas. Meanwhile, Daryl is bitching about his girlfriend which he does with almost frightening normativity on a daily basis. I keep my eyes trained in front of me as I see someone about twenty yards away from me that I don’t want to talk to.
“Dan. Man. Fuck,” Daryl says. I suggest that perhaps there is another way of getting to the library, like an underground tunnel or something. Daryl stops walking and stares blankly at me. “You don’t think we’d know if there was an underground railroad going on?” He asks.
“Why is every underground complex considered a railroad in the African-American community?” I ask. Daryl, who at this point was drenched after standing outside the safety of the umbrella, if only for about fifteen or twenty seconds, simply shook his head and with that I knew that this was not a topic that I should pursue. Dan had by now made his way over to us just out of the library. One of the problems with Dan (only one of many, many problems that exist with him) is that he will casually approach you and bombard you with questions, none of which really have answers, not that this matters to him as he’s not all that interested in the answers anyway.
Dan decided to try to talk to Daryl about race. You don’t talk to Daryl about race, you don’t ask him about race unless he first brings it up, and you certainly don’t ask questions about race that are based on racial cliches, which is what Dan decided to do.
All of this was unfortunate because I didn’t want to talk to Dan to begin with and as soon as he opened his mouth I knew that bad things were going to happen. Daryl got in Dan’s face and Dan, who always seems to struggle with controlling his stupidity told Daryl to “settle down” as race wasn’t a “big deal.” It was at this point that I knew I had to get involved or I’d wind up filling out a police report at some point in the near future. This was about to become a someone’s going to emergency, someone’s going to jail situation.
I just wanted Dan to leave us alone and I explained to him that it was time for him to get out out or a beatdown would indeed ensue.
“Can’t you just explain to him why he’s wrong?” Dan asked.
“DBAD, DBAA, DBADF,” Daryl shouted like he was reciting guitar chords. Another problem with Dan is that he doesn’t care about or is seemingly unaware of things like consequences. He just wouldn’t let it go. Dan was no invading Daryl’s personal space and getting in his face. Those are two things that aren’t going to help you in any situation.
“Just because you’re black doesn’t mean you get to tell me now to treat black people, you don’t know the first thing about racism,” Dan insisted. Thems be fighting words and Daryl grabbed Dan and threw him to the curb.
“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” I shouted at Daryl.
“He doesn’t get to talk to me like that,” Daryl insisted. I looked at Dan, who was sitting in a puddle clearly bloodied, and looked over at Daryl, who looked like he was ready to jump on top of him.
“You’re black, he’s white” I said with a cool calm that would have frightened me in any other situation. I couldn’t believe that I was now looking at this situation through a racial lens however there was little choice. If we had stayed there Daryl would have gone to jail there’s no doubt in my mind about that. But I grabbed Daryl and forced him towards the library with every ounce of strength I had in me. As we made our way inside the library I tried to cooly explain that the fighting words doctrine tends to be used to protect police officers not black people. This wasn’t something that Daryl wanted to talk about either.
“This is why brothas don’t go out in a storm,” he explained. “Just watch ‘The Wire.’ Those brothas ain’t slangin rock in the rain. Even drug dealers don’t want to be out in rough weather. If you’re an entrepreneur you get to control your own schedule.”
“Do you really want to think of drug dealers as entrepreneurs?” I asked.
“Job opportunities are limited when you’re a brotha, education is the silver bullet, man” he said with a hint of optimism.
“True dat,” I said throwing a coat over him in a rather blatant attempt to try and hide him in the library.