Archive for April 3rd, 2007

Setting: The Embarcadero station of the BART system in San Francisco, just after the verdict in the Rodney King case. We have just got off the train. You can tell that we’re tourists, because the weather is warm enough for us to be in shorts while everyone else is wearing coats.

An African American WOMAN is standing to one side. She is very tall, and heavyset, and has a new scar on her right cheek held together by some amateur stitches.

ME(nervously): Can you tell us how to get to the Ferry Building?

WOMAN (putting hands on her hips and speaking in a very deep accent): Honey, you ain’t from these parts, is you?

WOMAN takes us aside and explains that, with the tensions surrounding the verdict, it’s currently inadvisable in California for European ethnics and African Americans to talk to each other casually in public unless they know each other. Looking at her scar, we wonder but don’t dare to ask if she is speaking from personal experience. Eventually, we slink off, murmuring nervous thanks.

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