.@joeldinerstein I ended up telling .@mrmikewiseguy in his kitchen a story I wanted to share through my #americancool opening remarks. It concerns my belief that the “N-word” debate is discussed inadequately.
(The crowd-requested #dockellis short crowded this anecdote out.)
A dozen years ago I was working on a construction crew in Brentwood. The gig was a $2 million remodeling of a pretty expansive home. The bosses were white and everyone else was Mexican except for me, an unskilled laborer. This story takes place in July.
Need it be said that the other proles busted serious ass? That they took as many as three busses to get to the job site and sometimes went to other places of work after our gig, which I thought back-breaking, was over?
Well, a couple of weeks in I was partnered with a smallish man that here shall be called Juan. The bosses wanted Juan and I to transfer a big pile of newly excavated dirt to the rear of the property. We were to make a dozen-and-a-half trips by wheelbarrel through the property’s front entrance, up the adjacent incline, around the property’s back boundary, and then we were to deposit loads of dirt in a neat line so that the blonde lady of the house could use it to expand her garden.
Each trip was about a quarter mile, back and forth.
At first, Juan and I were unclear how to get up the hill and around the bend. However, we used our limited communication ability to come up with this plan:
One of us would push the load while the other would — with a rope tied around his waist and connected to the wheelbarrel’s front — take a running start a give our team the boost it needed to get up the incline. Since I was the stronger, my job was to push.
The scheme worked pretty well, especially at first. Wiry Juan’s burst of speed did indeed put us over the top, in terms of power. The lady of the house nodded when she drove through the main entrance, approving of our progress.
But the fact is that Juan was doing most of the work. So, I offered to switch places. And he accepted. He got behind the wheelbarrel after we got a drink of water. I tied the rope around my waist and took off.It wasn’t especially hard work, but the optics proved problematic. The woman drove up after maybe my second trip. She stopped her car. Then she stopped us. “No! No! No! NO!” she shouted, shaking her car. There would be no more dirt moving today, at least not this way. What struck me is those first passes she took, when Juan was tied up. That was okay. But ME in Juan’s position? That was too much. What would the neighbors say? When we talk about who says “nigga” the Latinos are always left out. Yet, it’s my experience that Mexicans of lower caste use the word as much as black kids. I think this is because they are the new niggas, and some American-made conditions are beyond flesh tone.
There. Didn’t wanna skip town without sharing that.