Early this morning I made my way to the IRS Office on Koger Blvd to get a letter to give to Guilford County, arrived there a few minutes after 7:00 and took my place in line with a group of working class folk all working class. You see, rich people never stand in line at the IRS.
As the office didn't open until 8:30 I had a lot of time to get to know the 2 African American men standing in line right behind me. We shared a lot in common besides working for a living. One already knew about the horrific beating of Thomas Bynum by the A&T football team even though he had never before heard of EzGreensboro.com. As a matter of fact, he told me this wasn't the team's first such incident.
It turns out all three of us live in East Greensboro and know each others' neighborhoods. We all knew about The Disproportionate Risks of Driving While Black" in Greensboro, North Carolina. We all prefer to keep our neighbors at a distance and not have many visitors. Two of us are stroke survivors. The third is just shy of the age where we had our strokes. Hopefully he took notes.
When a guy tried to break in line they became quite vocal about it and I simply stared him down. He walked out, got in his car and drove away. We felt good about ourselves. I felt as if we had bonded.
When we were finally allowed inside we were asked to do something that can only be best described as musical chairs as we moved from seat to seat to get our numbers and wait again. At one point I found 2 empty seats to my left so I moved 2 spaces instead of 1. "Billy, where you going?" one of the men asked.
"I don't want to sit beside black people," I joked.
But no one laughed. Nothing was said to me but suddenly the jovial mood seemed broken. I felt as if I'd hurt my new friends who in-fact I may or may never see again. I tried to brush it off saying, "Like you really believe that coming from someone who's lived in East Greensboro all his life," but the fact remains the damage was done.
Yes, it's just words and I wish I'd had the guts to apologize right there on the spot but the truth is my courage is usually built on anger and without reason to be angry I didn't have the guts. And words can hurt. Words can start wars and revolutions. Maybe is shouldn't hurt but it does. And that's not their fault.
So for my stupid mistake you have my apology. It's my sincere hope the right people read it someday as putting it in print was the least I could do.