What happened was, I came to the Yankee Capital from where I growed up in East Needle, Tennessee, that’s so far back in the mountains that the sun don’t hardly shine and we don’t get too much news about what they do in the flatlands. Mostly people in East Needle just stays where they are. But I weren’t too normal, or anyways that’s what Miss Maisie Stovelid, the teacher lady in the county school said. She said I was smarter than the other kids and she hoped I’d go far, though I reckon she would have settled for the next county over. Most folk just thought there was something wrong with my head.
So howsomever that was, I set out for the Yankee Capital that’s Washington, DC, and I spent near on two years staying with my cousin Entropy McWilliams and learning what was going on in the part of the country that ain’t East Needle, that turned out to be most of it.
Well, I decided that flatlanders was crazier than the possums that used to eat the throwaway mash from my Uncle Hant’s moonshine still. Anyway, they was all upset about Rachel Tension. I figured she was out of the Bible. The Good Book is full of Rachels and Jezebels and the preacher in East Needle, that was the Reverent McBilly Oslieber of the Pure Bible Truth Baptist Church, was always talking about them ladies. But it turned out Rachel Tension was all about colored people, that we didn’t have none of in East Needle, and that seemed to work pretty good-
Anyways, I was there for about two years and maybe halfway understood people. That’s about all the understanding you can do with flatlanders. So then I heard about some preacher man called Al Sharpton who didn’t like white people, that I thought was pretty much all of us, and i figured out what was going on in the flatlands. so I called his office.
Well, I guess. The other day In the Washington Post that’s a newspaper, I found someone called the Reverent Al Sharpton honking and blowing about how bad white folks is, and how we needed to fess up about our sins, and we needed a open and honest conversation about race. It seemed like a pretty good idea, and it’s sure never been tried, so I called the Reverent Al’s office and said I’d meet him somewhere and we could try it.
Al’s office said he was too important to talk to me. They didn’t exactly say it but it was what they meant. They said they would send his assistant, Rastus Washington, and we could be open and honest.
Rastus turned out to be a black fellow who studied at Harvard, that’s a motingator school and real important. He seemed like a nice guy and so I helped him read the menu, and I told him I’d go first and be open and honest, and then he could take his shot. I got right to it and what I said was:
Now, Rastus, you talk about the lingering–it means leftover–effects of slavery and how awful they are. I agree with you, Rastus. Them effects is bad and I think we should do something about them. One leftover effect of slavery is that I have to buy a new bicycle about two times a year. That’s an effect that I wish would linger som less.
My neighbor Bill Fuse in Arlington, that’s outside of the city, he says he’s a engineer but they ain’t no trains in Washington so sometimes I wonder. He said another lingering effect of slavery was, “I can’t walk in the cities of my own country unless I wear a armored bathysphere.” I didn’t know what one of those was, but he said it was getting real hard to find a bathysphere in Washington.
I figured out that lots of cities in America was full of lingering effects of slavery, and most of them have guns and want your car. Well, I wanted my car too except I didn’t have one to want.
Now let’s talk about this slavery thing, Rastus. You want respirations for slavery. That makes sense,I thought, about like lug nuts on a birthday cake. You’ve done convinced me, Rastus. In this very moment I promise to go home and set loose all my slaves, ever blessed one, and they can scuttle in all directions and I won’t pay them no mind.
Just wondering, Rastus, how many slaves do you figure I own? I can’t hardly remember, I got so many. I don’t need a exact number, but just even hundreds, and I give my pledge to give all of them ten million dollars each. I reckon that might be pretty good respirations for a lot of slavery, what do you figure?
One day I read in the Washington Post that’s more honest even than the Bible that more’n nine hundred cars got carjacked in the city this year. It don’t sound too civilized. Let’s powwow a little about them cars. I reckon it was mostly old Asian women in walkers and probably on Social Security that done all that. It’s what usually happens. Sometimes they got poison chopsticks so you have to give them the keys. A white man would take a cab. But, you know how those old Asian women are. it’s better to steal a car.
But then I read in this magazine, it was called Natural Geographic, about Africa and how people there did hunting and gathering. That means finding stuff and it don’t belong to nobody so you can just take it and it’s a instinct. It ain’t really stealing. They just can’t tell a car from low-hanging papayas.
And I reckon it’s kind of the same thing with all these blacks that get caught doing that plagiarism stuff, like Martin Luther King and that Claudine Gay woman that was president of Harvard until a while back when she stopped being. I don’t guess they mean to steal anything. It’s just more hunting-and-gathering, but it’s somebody else’s school papers instead of wild bananas. And anyway they aren’t really stealing it. They leave it where they found it, but just make a copy. I mean, if one of those Asian-lady carjackers made a copy of somebody’s car, would you call it stealing?
Now, Rastus, let’s talk about this cultural appropriation that you black folk fuss about. It seems like you do a lot of it your own self. Anytime you talk English, that’s cultural appropriation, though I know it don’t happen too often. Anytime you count more than ten or wear shoes, or talk on your telephone that we invented or drive on paved roads, or drive a car no matter who you stole it from. And when you steal all those cars you’re really appropriating a lot of culture or at least cars. I wish you would leave some for us so we can drive to work.
what i reckon is, Rastus. you ought to thank us for everything we invent and you get to use free. Saying thanks is just good manners. Get some binoculars, that’s’ like two telescopes stuck together like beer bottles, and go to Dupont Circle in the Yankee Capital, and climb up on the that thing that shoots water everywhere and looks like somebody crazy tried to make a faucet and it didn’t work too good, with all the water coming out every whichaway and look all around, and see if you can find anything, with a moving part, invented by American Africans.
I don’t know, Rastus. It really seems to me you ought to thank white folk for inventing all that stuff for you. If it wasn’t for us, what could you steal?
But what Bill Fuse, hes the engineer fellow that don’t have no train, says we could license you our civilization. That’s what Bill Fuse says. He says it would be like software, that sounds like those magazines you get in the bus station under the counter. He says it would take a lot of bookkeeping to license you everything separate–shoes, smartphone, dentists. The bookkeeping would be awful. But maybe we could let you rent the whole thing, for five thousand a year. Maybe we could have family licenses as a quantity discount. that’s what Bill says.
Sometimes I have to wonder about football, where you black folks get twelve million dollars a year to grab something and run with it. And we give you shopping malls to practice in. That looks like black privilege to me, Rastus. What you get twelve million for, I’d get twelve years.
I don’t know, Rastus. These is deep questions. But I reckon if we figure on them hard enough, we might come up with answers. My mother taught me to be polite, so I won’t say it looks like nobody in this whole damn city ain’t got the sense God give a crabapple. and anyway we’re having a open and honest discussion of race. I guess that’s something anyway. What do you figure?
Tutankhamen didn’t, and he’s dead. Coincidence?