It happens like this: your kid is having a birthday party and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves until the one kid who is black comes over to say that this dad told his kid to punch him. So. The kid punched him.
You believe this kid, of course, and ask who the kid is and who the dad is. He can’t find the kid, but he knows the dad; he’s one of the rednecks up in the fucking adult balcony which overlooks the entire place. You know he’s a redneck because he’s hanging out with other white guys who are wearing hunter orange Under Armor hoodies and those stupid fucking t-shirts with the American flag in, like, black and grey with matching hats.
The kid says to you, “You should go say something to him.”
And this is where your privilege becomes glaringly obvious because you realize you’ve never had to have a confrontation like this. So, you try to postpone it. You tell the kid (the 11 year old) you might go say something later. But you really don’t plan on it. I mean, Jesus, you’re 5 feet 5 and 142 pounds. Your hair is purple or red or some color in between and you’re the queerest looking person in the building. The worst part: you know who these fucking guys are. You grew up with them. I mean, maybe you’ve never heard or seen anything too blatant, but you always knew.
So, you look up to that balcony with the redneck dad crew as they survey their land like kings. You tell the kid, you know, “I might go say something later.” And hope the kid forgets about it.
Because you are a coward. And you’re scared of these white dads. And you’ve never really had to do anything like this. Because you are white. And your kids are white.
Towards the end of the birthday party, the kid comes back to you and looks up there, to the balcony of white men, this eleven year old light brown black kid with a poofy pony tail and undercut. And he says, “I’m going to go up there and say something.” And you, a coward, encourage him not to. And say, you know, I want to help you, but I’m scared. And you don’t know what he thinks of you, you fucking coward of a parent. So when he says, “when my mom gets here, she can say something,” you feel like a real piece of shit. You ask, “what does your mom normally say?” He says, “If your kid touches my kid again we’re going to have a problem.”
So, you consult with your partner and your teenage but adult daughter. What do I do? But you fucking know what to do, don’t you? You coward. You white girl type person. You know exactly what needs to happen, but you’re scared. There’s no way in hell you’re letting the kid go up there, but the thought of going up there, ascending all of those steps to where those men lean on their forearms surveying their land, makes you feel nauseous because even though you are a badass, you do not want to be hit or shot by these white men.
Eventually, you puff up and ascend the steps with your daughter behind you because she is ready to fight. She is Gen Z and she gives no fucks and yet all the fucks at once.
So. You walk up the steps and see that he’s coming down the steps, but he’s engaged in conversation with another white man. You wait patiently because you’re socialized as as southern woman, but, sensing a lull in the conversation, you tap him on the arm and say, “Hey, I heard that you told your kid to hit my kid.”
And he looks at you like you’re nothing and says, “I don’t know anything about that.”
“He’s black,” you say, “does that help?”
And with that, this white man starts going down the steps saying things over his shoulder you can barely make out. So you say, loud enough that his other white dad friends can hear, “So, it seems like you do know something about that?”
You let him walk away, but then go to your table where your partner, the kid, and Cyrus are waiting. You’re fucking mad. You call him a coward and he says he has to go to the bathroom and then goes outside.
Why. Why is he going to the parking lot? To get a knife? A gun? Will he wait for you there? You don’t really think so, but you also don’t really know. Now, there are 5 people in your family all wondering what to do.
Just then, he walks back in, so you’re all glaring at him. As he passes he gets mad, “Why are y’all looking at me funny?” And you all answer in different ways, yours being, “I wanted to have a conversation with you.”
But. He can’t handle it. He’s walking away while saying, “that kid hit my kid in the head three times (while playing dodge ball) and, look he’s smiling right now!”
So. You white man. You do know what happened. And you did tell your kid to hit my kid. And you think it’s justified. And you didn’t have the fucking balls to even have a conversation about it.
He still can’t handle this, though. This confrontation and what you and your family look like. (You imagine you’re a white man, momentarily and how the conversation could’ve gone then. Or. The kid he told his kid to hit was white. Would it be the same instructions?)
He keeps walking, back up the steps to his kingdom. And he’s accusing you of arguing, and all you wanted was to have a conversation.
He looks down on you. He flips off the eleven year old. The one black kid. And he’s saying some shit from his tower but you can’t hear him over the roar of children running and jumping and the music.
So, your daughter flips him off. Two hands. And he’s mad now. Saying some shit you can’t hear. But there’s blood rushing in your ears because you’re ready to fight. Or you hate yourself for not doing anything an hour ago.
You apologize to the kid. The kid says, “it’s okay.” And you say, “this is not okay.”
You can see and feel in this kid’s eyes; he’s done this before.
And you, you coward, you almost didn’t say anything at all.