Saturday, July 21, 2007

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When I lunched with Ann and Gloria, Gloria was the first black person I ever got to know. I remember thinking: She and I are more alike than Ann and I are. That was a revelation then; it sounds naïve now.

Walking in the Village, I saw an intellectual-looking, smooth-talking young black man, dressed in a suit, coming on to a very pretty young brunette. “You won’t talk to me because I’m black, that’s it, isn’t it?” he was saying. She was walking in front of him, looking pained, her face averted.
Maybe I should have said: “She doesn’t let herself be picked up by anyone – but that’s a good line you have.” I wonder, though, if that would have meant a fight.

Near Carnegie Hall, an unkempt white man shouting at a well-dressed, embarrassed black man… “You’re a nigger!” … In front of a supermarket in Passaic, a red-headed white kid taunting a startled black kid with the word “nigger.” … In San Francisco, early one morning, a black kid challenging a white kid (whom he didn’t know) to a fight, the white kid saying he had to go to work…

Time Inc. employees were on strike. A young well-dressed black man, a Time employee, was passing by us strikers, grinning, and making contemptuous remarks. I thought of calling him a blackleg.