“You know what I find hard to believe?” Rodney leaned back in his chair. “I walked in the store today and they were watching me like I was a thief.” Rodney was clean, a well-dressed man; shirt, tie, razor edged creased slacks and he wore his blackness like a well-earned badge that no one was going to be shitting on anytime soon. “In this day and age? Still?”
“Really?” HossColla eyed him. HossColla was natural-born old school. Gruff voice, coarse exterior with a wisdom born of hard experience.
“Yeah, man! Rodney stroked his goatee, speckles of gray mixed in with the black. It leant his face an intent countenance, accentuated by his steely dark eyes. “I guess that ‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner’ never really happened, right? In this day and age. It’s been 400 years. You would think…”
“Here is the problem that I have with you… you and those of your ilk.”
“Yes. Ilk. People like you. You and your kind.” HossColla said and patted his short afro. He used to have an Angela Davis joint but age had taken most of his hair. “You expect people to give up their prejudices and attitudes… just like that?”
Rodney sat up straight in his chair. “Colla, it’s been 400 years!”
“My point exactly!” HossColla said. “You want people… you expect people to give up their racism just like that? Cold turkey? For real?”
“Yup. I sure do. And the fact that they’ve had this long to get it right! That things haven’t changed in all this time, only makes it worse. This is the twenty first century! Socially, its enlightenment time. People are supposed to be more culturally aware. More diverse. We had a Black president goddammit!”
“And yet?” Hosscolla said and spread his arms, waiting for an answer. When none came, he spoke calmly. “After the slaves got freed, they still had to send the military to force slave owners to let my people go. They had to force them! The hate was too strong. Then after that, there was Civil Rights movement; MLK and all of them. We got the right to vote, equal rights… all of that. Equality was the law! Law of the land! That thing that civilized folks obey as the basis of civilized living! But they still had to send the military to enforce that law too!”
“I know you have a point, Colla,” Rodney said. “So what you saying?”
“You can’t expect racists to give up racism cold turkey. They can’t just yank the needle out! They gonna have the DTs and everything. And you know how junkies get when they can’t get their fix! All hell breaks loose. Next thing you know… they shooting again.”
“A racism junkie,” Rodney said.
“And some of them got guns!” Colla pointed down at the window. “You know that boy, used to live down the street? Bone?”
“Haven’t seen him in a minute. Where that nigga, Bone? Where Bone at?”
“He died.” Colla heaved a huge sigh. “Well, he got killed, I mean.”
“Yeah. He was a junkie. Died with a needle in his arm. In the alley off Allen Street.” Colla turned to look at him. “Racists are like that.”
“What the hell does that mean, Colla? You know, you got some shit with you sometimes bruh man. You know that, right?” Rodney gave a short laugh. “Okay, Colla. I’ll bite. How so?”
“Racism has been here so long that you would think that it’s in America’s DNA. It’s not though. It’s just been here so long that some people have become junkies. Racist junkies. Hooked on the stuff.” Colla tapped his fingers on his forearm – the spot where junkies shoot the needle. “They take hits. The hate. Everyday into the bloodstream. Straight into the vein. Makes them have illusions and whatnot. It’s their world. Because they own it. They run it. Racism. It’s a helluva drug.”
“And you think that they are so addicted to this drug, this racism, that they can’t stop?” Rodney said.
“Not cold turkey,” Colla said. “That racism be callin’ em, Rodney. It be callin’ em!”
“Not seeing it,” Rodney said. “Even drug addicts hit bottom and…”
“Not all of them. Some maybe.”
“And some of them watch you like a thief when you go into their stores. They think ‘black’ and ‘bad’ are the same thing. Always have. Maybe always will.” Colla nodded his head. “How much hate do you think it took to enslave grown men who only knew freedom? Think about what it took to do that.” He leaned forward, intent on bringing his point home. “You have to adjust your humanity, your reality, to be inhumane. And that takes a drug. Racism is as good as any drug. Works better too.”
Rodney arched an eyebrow in question.
“Drugs wear off,” Colla said. “Racism is portable; that high can last a lifetime. You can carry it around with you. Everywhere you go. Can’t no piss test catch it either. In fact, it’s so well hidden, the junkie convinces himself and everybody he knows that it isn’t even there. Nobody can tell if you are racially stoned, not by looking at you; it just doesn’t show. So you can be a racist junkie, twenty four seven.”
HossColla nodded his head. “I know.”