Coffee: Cafe Pajaro, Extra Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand
This morning I talked to Z. I’m calling him Z for privacy. Z works the grounds of my apartment complex doing maintenance. He started a few months after I moved in. He’s worked eight years in the industry at other properties. He’s the only black man on staff. Yesterday, management gave him the fall for the negligence of his old, white supervisor.
I don’t want to get into the details of the write-up because it isn’t my affair and I couldn’t speak on it accurately. Instead, I’m going to list facts about Z – some that he has told me, some that I’ve observed – in no particular order:
1) Z has three kids; the third was born last week.
2) Z has solved every problem we’ve had in the apartment.
3) In February, during the biggest snow, Z drove the buggy and laid ice on the paths. We talked about the cold and sleet and snow.
4) On Z’s second day at the complex a white resident referred to him with a racial slur. He told management. Management said he must have misheard.
5) Z was accepted to NC State but declined to go in order to take care of his family. It was a hard decision but he doesn’t regret it.
6) Z is the only member of staff that remembers my name.
7) Pride runs like a wildfire when Z talks about his son.
Here’s a final fact. It’s not about Z, but I think it’s relevant:
8) Whenever they see me, the other staff are all smiles, all laughs, all jokes, always talking pleasant and small, trying to squeeze something out of me because they look at my brown hair and brown eyes and peach flesh and see worth and value, opportunity. They don’t know a thing about me and they don’t need to because of my skin. Meanwhile, they ignore the only man on their staff of any value because of his.
Tar Baby, Toni Morrison
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“In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate.” – Toni Morrison