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Changing Man

September 11, 2006

Speaking of UNC, back when I was in school one White dude used the N-word in my presence. It was pretty late at night during the week and many of us were just sitting around in the lounge not studying. We’d probably just finished an exhilarating game of UNO. “Joe,” the offender in question, was a short, stocky, dark haired kid, always tanned, possibly with some Native ancestry. He stumbled into the lounge, obviously under the influence of something.

Joe and I were friendly, we weren’t friends, yet he made a beeline for me as if we were long lost pals. I don’t remember what he was mumbling about initially; though in retrospect he must have been telling the room about his evening out. Somewhere in among the conversation he referred to some person (King Rice?), not me, as a n*****. As the only Black person in the now deathly silent room, all eyes turned towards me. I ignored him, even though he tried to continue to have a conversation with me. He realized what he’d said and made a awkward exit.

It wasn’t the last we spoke. I was hanging out with some other n****** a week or so later in between classes. “Joe” approached me and attempted an apology. When he finished, I sat there, silent.

That was the last we spoke. “Joe” got blasted in a drug deal about a month after that. I got a clearer picture when I learned how he died and who he was hanging out with when not with his White dorm mates, why in his drunken state he may have mistakenly thought he was “down” enough to use the n-word without consequence. I did wish that I’d accepted his apology, though.

Several years ago I was telling this story to one of my super hip genius leftist law school buddies in a conversation about White guys who loved rap music but hated Black people. He said that he knew some guys like “Joe.” Then, vaguely referring to himself, he asked me if I thought it was possible for guys who were like that to change.

Yeah, I suppose it is. But how?

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