“It’s cool being a black man, ‘cuz everybody’s afraid of you.”
So, I did what any proud, self-respecting senior citizen would do. I invited myself to dinner at my long-time neighbors’ who have been trying to get me to their Thanksgiving table for nearly 20 years. For the purpose of this post I will refer to them as the Guxtables, for this is a family right out of the mold of the famed, but fictitious, TV family.
My friends, B and C Guxtable, have a total of seven children, but only one of them is from their biological union. Three of them are B’s nieces and nephews who, for one reason or another, were not able to be raised by their birth parents. Two of them came to the Guxtables via private adoptions when they were infants. One of them is Mr. Guxtable’s Daughter who lives in another state with her mother.
They bought the antique Victorian across the street from my old house in 1995. It was a shambles, with a crumbling foundation, jungle-like overgrowth in the huge yards and looking as if the only remedy for what ailed it was a bulldozer. This is what it looks like today. It is a Bed and Breakfast Inn and the home for the Guxtable clan.
Mama Guxtable is an IT executive who travels the world on business, while Papa G., recently retired from General Motors, helps run the B&B and makes sure the children and two dogs are accounted for, driven to lessons/practices/games, and the grounds stay as pristine as they can possibly be. Happiness just pours out of those windows – along with the usual angst and drama that comes with teenagers and an 8-year-old who was born an adult.
B and C are black Southerners, both born in North Carolina. Two of their “daughters” (nieces, but they claim them as daughters) have a white mother and their father is B’s brother. They look like me. One of the adopted sons has skin the color of ebony piano keys and the chiseled facial features of movie star Lupita N’Yongo. And their oldest “son” (nephew claimed as son), the product of another of B’s brothers and a Mexican woman, represents the most visually attractive aspects of each ethnicity.
B’s favorite sport is teasing me about my “pasty pallor,” once referring to me as White Chocolate. I feign being insulted, after which we both dissolve in giggles.
I tutored their now 21-year-old daughter and their now 16-year-old son for several years. I baby sat for all of them at one time or another, if only for a few hours. They are like family to me. That’s why it was not as bodacious as it may sound for me to simply crash their feast.
Ferguson, MO came up during the table talk, somewhere between the second-helpings of cornbread stuffing and candied yams. Despite our pretty visible diversity of DNA, we were all on the same page when it came to our sense of hopelessness for ever seeing the end to America’s Dirtiest Not-So-Little secret.
There were a couple of non-family diners at the table. One was another mixed-race young man who is the boyfriend of one of the older daughters. The other was the young man who lives just down the street --I’ll call him John -- whose family was scheduled to eat at 4 p.m., but he was hungry at 1 p.m., so he decided to get an early start at the Guxtables’ table. That’s the kind of family they are. All are welcome all the time.
John is a handsome, mocha-hued young man with the shoulders of a linebacker and the smile of a movie star. His personality could light up the entire Christmas tree without having to plug it in. After participating in the discussion about Mike Brown and the recent failure of Brown’s killer to be held accountable, John blurted out the sentence opening this post.
“It’s cool being a black man,’cuz everybody’s afraid of you.” The laughter that followed was a combination of true appreciation of his humor and the nervous twitter of those of us who weren’t quite feeling the “coolness” of that statement.
John went on the describe the day he and his Girlfriend were jogging on the hugely popular new Atlanta Beltline. Apparently, his girlfriend is either white or a fair-skinned woman of one color or another. A white man jogged past John and slowed down next to the girlfriend long enough to whisper “Be careful. There’s a suspicious-looking man following you.” John was wearing a hooded sweatshirt.
We all agreed we were most thankful, this brilliant and cold Thanksgiving Day, that none of our sons or brothers have had the misfortune of being gunned down while looking suspicious, scary, menacing, thuggish, threatening, or just plain guilty…of something.