In the early 1980's I was a marketing rep for a high profile HMO. Well,
high profile for back then.
This was before the letters H-M-O were known by everybody and their cat.
My job was to handle inquiries from heads of families and groups and convince them to join this particular HMO.
I got a call one day from "Mr. Jones"-I don't remember his real name.
Mr. Jones was a senior citizen who belonged to a rival HMO through Medicare
but he was hot to join the one I worked for.
Me: "Well Mr. Jones, why do want to leave HMO X and join mine?"
Jones: "Well Mr. Peterson, it's like this: They made me wait in the
waiting room for 2 hours,
and when the doctor finally came to see me, he was a goddamned black guy. I got up and left,
cause I don't let no spades touch me!"
I held the phone receiver away from my ear a few seconds, not believing
what I'd just been told.
My problem now was: what to do-try to straighten this bonehead out, or go for the commission?
What would you do?
Here's what I did.
"Mr. Jones, we can get you signed up with us either of two ways-we can
do it through the mail,
or you can come into my office and we can get the paperwork done and get you started right way."
He said "I want to come in today, cause I gotta get outta there. I like
what you have to say,
and with a name like Peterson, I know who I'm dealing with."
What a maroon. All my life I've been told I don't talk "black" (whatever
the hell that means)
and that over the phone it is hard to pin a region or nationality on me.
We set up an appointment for that afternoon.
This was going to be sweet.
When I got paged to come to the lobby, I knew it was him.
I was neatly dressed, three piece suit and tie, highly polished shoes, and doing my best
to disguise the shutting grin that was on the edge of having me helpless with laughter.
I went to the reception area and saw one of the whitest, baldest, uptight little old bastards I'd seen in ages.
And he realized who I was. The look on his face was priceless.
If I'd been thinking, I'd have done whatever it took to get my hands on the security tape.
I introduced myself, smiling broadly, and ushered Mr. Jones into a conference
room where we could "do this in private".
My professional, confident facade was all that kept him from realizing that I was on the edge of getting a hernia
from holding my laughter at the look on his face.
I seated him and pulled up a chair close to him. VERY close. I read
through the policy, indicating the points
I had told him over the phone. Then I held the pen up to his face, saying "Now all I need is your signature
here and your check for the first month, and we're in business." He took the pen, signed, and got the hell out of there.
He had not said a single word the entire time.
I fought the urge to say "And you'll be very happy with us, Mr. Jones.
We don't employ ANY spades here."
So I had a lot of fun in a situation that involved racial prejudice.
I have a story to tell that is impossible for me to make it through without almost coughing up a lung from laughter.
I don't know what happened to Mr. Jones, and frankly don't much care.
End of story.
Except: what if the story hadn't ended there? I just told you my version
of that day.
We have no idea what "Mr. Jones" told his friends.
What if he and his friends had decided to do something about that uppity smart ass "spade" that didn't know his place?
What if I had found myself on the receiving end of some nasty surprise on my way to my car after work?
Who reading this, without thinking, took less than 1/10 of a second to imagine what kind of "surprise" I might have run into? Anyone who doesn't get where I'm going with this may as well stop reading because you're never going to get it.
Anyone who doesn't think that minorities don't get some nasty "surprises"
in this country, in this day and age,
should just ask James Byrd. Oh, that's right-he's not ever going to be answering any questions.
For much less than what I did, countless people have been burned to
death, hung, dragged behind trucks,
disemboweled, impaled and any number of other things just for being the "wrong" color.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg of the overt stuff.
How can people in this day and age pretend that job and housing discrimination doesn't exist?
That the legal and judicial systems aren't slanted against minorities?
Can you name me five prominent black people who aren't in sports, on
TV, or in music?
I'm not talking about Alan Keyes, Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, J.C. Watts or
any of the GOP approved "good Negroes" who do everything in their power to help
other minorities have the same advantages they themselves had.
While you're asking yourself,
"Why is he upset? Nothing happened, everything came out okay that day", ask yourself: What if it hadn't?
What if I had smarted off to the wrong guy?