by Chris Burton
Initially posted this on Medium.
Today furthered my rich appreciation for the absurd.
On my way back from an interfaith prayer vigil for gun violence victims, I look in the next lane and see a man on a motorcycle with an amazing sound system blasting “Niggas Bleed” by the late, great Biggie Smalls.
To his heart’s content.
On Martin Luther the King day tho? Slow down son, you killin’ em.
Yet this did not take the crown.
At the aforementioned vigil, I was ready to leave with my group when a police officer approached me.
“Excuse me. Were you with this group?”
“Well, would you mind cleaning this place up?”
This isn’t one of those moments where I’m sweetening the story; substituting what I should have said with how I actually reacted. See, I like to give folks the benefit of the doubt. Maybe we misunderstood each other.
I meant that I was part of the group in respect to I was a part of a group that was one of many groups of participants in this interfaith rally. Perhaps he meant the group of people who put the vigil together. Surely that’s what he meant right? After all, no one would go up to a Yankee fan on Broadway and ask them to start sweeping tickertape.
But I didn’t have time for clarification. My group was leaving and he wasn’t asking if I could help clean up, he wanted me to be the help. And though I try to be kind, I’d like to think I’m too smart to fall for the okey doke. He wasn’t accusing me of littering; my sticker (unlike the few stickers on the sidewalk) was still clearly on my shirt. So after processing the situation I promptly responded,
“Yes, I would mind,” and walked away as his face filled with surprise.
I’m proud of myself but initially felt like a jerk. It’s not that I’m too good to clean litter. In the spirit of the day, I could have reasoned that doing so would be servanthood. But I’ve been pricked by too many microagressions, too many #AccidentalRacist episodes to give the benefit of the doubt.
I don’t know if I was the closest person but I know the officer didn’t stop my group, he stopped me, the closest black man he could find.
And I thank God that my response only inspired surprise.