Racism, politics and burgers with my friend Donald

Malik Harvey

With my 28th birthday around the corner, my old bones aren’t good for much else besides eating and talking; when I’m feeling frisky, I’ll do the aforementioned with other people.

Yesterday was one of those occasions.

My friend Donald, whom I met through reselling shoes, reached out to me to have lunch. I replied so fast I’m not sure if it was my fingers that did the typing or my stomach, but needless to say, I obliged. 

Donald, a 45-year-old caucasian male, grew up in an enclave of Detroit; Highland Park, off Puritan.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the area, allow me to provide more context- Neighborhood Scout rated Highland Park’s crime index a 3, with 100 being the safest.

While this statistical reading is pertaining to Highland Park today, during the time Donald grew up in this neighborhood the crack epidemic was in full swing and affecting predominately Black neighborhoods like Highland Park the worst. 

Donald initially described his time growing up in this urban area as a daily battle.

“Man, when I first moved on the block I would walk to school in the morning and get barked at by guys in the neighborhood saying, ‘N—–, what you doing on this side of the street?’

We would end up fighting, so the next day I’d walk on the other side of the street but then I’d hear, ‘N—–, what you doing on this side of the street?’”

As we scarfed down our fried pickles and potato skins, we shifted the conversation more directly to racism.

“You know, I just don’t get how racism is a thing,” Donald said. “It’s simply a difference in culture, and who’s to say one culture is better than the other? When you boil it down, we’re all human beings simply trying to figure this thing called life out.”

“I agree,” I replied. “The ideology behind it is pretty baffling to me as well, but it’s a ledge most people are willing to die on in this country. The ideas behind it are only based on propaganda, but I think as time has passed people have become comfortable living within stereotypes. Of course, with other social and economic factors at play, it only gives these stereotypes more of a foundation to stand on. It’s all pretty bleak.”

Our waiter came and broke up the conversation, briefly, as he set down our main entrees. A steaming hot buffalo sandwich with curly fries for me (a staple in my diet) and a river burger for Donald. 

Donald’s burger was so hefty that a cow might have a time trying to devour it, but then again, that would be some sort of cannibalism, huh?

As I began working on my curly fries and Donald figured out from what angle to attack the monstrosity laid out before him, our conversation resumed.

“You know, my wife and I went to this fudge place in the Upper Peninsula and an interracial couple walked in. A man, who had to be in his 50s, was sitting with his wife when he said, ‘I can’t believe that couple would walk in here like that.’ I walked right up to his table and said, ‘I can’t believe your wife would marry someone as stupid as you.’ As he sat there in shock, my wife came up and pleaded with me for us to just leave because she knew all it would take was for him to say something else stupid and my backhand was going right across his face.”

“That’s nuts,” I answered, while kind of chuckling at the thought of Donald’s backhand going across this elderly man’s face. “I believe (amongst other factors) that racism is going to be the downfall of America. It’s remarkable we’re still at odds with a problem created hundreds of years ago, but some people just don’t want to let it go. If we’ve been able to get this far while being divided, imagine what we could create together. Call it utopian, but I believe it to be plausible.”

“Yeah, you and me both, kid,” Donald replied.

We both sat there feeling the effects of what ingesting five pounds of food brings when I thought I’d change the topic of conversation.

“What do you think about the primaries in November, Donald?”

“Well as long as those lib-tards get and stay out of office, things should be okay.”

“Interesting,” I replied. “You don’t see politics and racism in the same light?”

Donald responded, “What do you mean?”

“Well, if a simple difference in culture makes no ethnicity better than the other, couldn’t you apply that same method of thinking towards politics?”

Donald snickered and said, “You still got a lot to learn, kid.”