posted Fri, 15 Jul 2005
So I’m walking out to my car and one of the maintenance guys, who is black (this is relevant to the story), says, “Nice hat!”
“Thanks,” I answer. “We white chicks don’t age well, you know!”
And, of course, my sister and my uncle have had suspicious skin spots cut out and my aunt Rita has just been diagnosed with melanoma. My aunt Rita, the pale Norwegian/Slovak who lives in Wisconsin and has spent most of her life indoors. It’s not a good idea for me to be in the sun.
He laughs and asks, “How old do you think I am?”
I study his face and answer, “Mid forties?”
“Nope! I’m 58! You’re right. White folks age a lot faster than black people.”
“Yeah. I’m Norwegian. We’re not supposed to be in the sun. We’re supposed to spend six months of the year in the dark and the cold.”
It is 10:00 in the morning and already warm and muggy. He gestures at the sun. “Not me. I’m fine with this weather. That’s because my people come from the tropics. I can spend all day in the sun and not be bothered. Doesn’t bother me a bit.”
“You know,” I say, “we’re not supposed to be able to say these things. Even though they’re fact.”
He laughs. “You’re not allowed to say them or you’re racist. It’s OK for me to say them because I’m black!”
We agree that it’s a stupid system that labels someone as a racist for stating the truth.
The working life: The rat race
1 day ago