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Ze Opifex Ze Opifex
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I Saw a Black Man Sitting at a Bus Stop Reading a Book


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She had a friend.

I don't know why, but for some reason, I was really stoked about having written this.


      I’m not a very great driver, of course. I’m only new at the whole thing. While others could multitask while looping around speeding traffic, I can only hope not to flip my vehicle if I so much as nod my head in the wrong direction. I do, however, find myself in the habit of being forced to wait through insufferably long traffic lights and, in doing so, get the opportunity to look around a little bit on my way to and from work. Today, to my surprise, I found a rather interesting view.


       I saw a black man sitting on a park bench and reading from a paperback book half held and half rested on his lap. With his other hand he held a Styrofoam drink cup with a straw, containing what must have been a clear drink from the few times I saw him sip from it. A tied white plastic bag stood at his side, appearing to be very similar in fashion to the cup. The book appeared nameless to me, but I could observe very much about the man himself. He wore black shoes, a black unzipped hoodie, and a black baseball cap worn forward. He wore brown pants and a darker brown shirt, seeming to lay below his darker clothing. His face was generic, to me anyway, slender with thin patches of bristly -or maybe it was soft- black hair over the darkly toned skin of his face. That face, I saw, stared deeply into that book, reading and reading, not even looking away to sip from his cup.


       Progressive was the first word to come to mind. There he was, reading. Despite his slight poverty - apparent to me by his choice of clothing, the plastic bag, and the fact that he was at a bus stop - and the social standards that keep African Americans down, he was being different. He was a leader in an army of the intelligent, rising up from the slums of ignorance and stupidity. He was really different. This was a man worth looking up to. And I glanced a little more at the spectacular hero as I drove off, almost swerving, before finally letting him leave my glance, probably never to see him again.


       Wow, that was racist. The thought came to my head a few more seconds down the road. Had I just assumed that this black man was a hero for reading? He’s any other person. Maybe not even poor; he could be frugal, or have bad taste. His skin color would make no difference at all. He’s absolutely no different than any other person at any other bus stop reading any other book. He’s no underdog, leading the army of ignorance into the light. All black people aren’t inherently unintelligent, so, there’s no way that hypothesis could be true. But… why did I think that?


       It’s just a book, did it make the difference? Are books so archaic or so esoteric that I can’t even fathom the thought of a black man carrying one? It’s a wooden tome of text, probably not even intellectual, but instead some cheap paperback fiction. Do books separate the men so greatly just by association? There’s no possible way that such a connection exists. It couldn’t be that simple or that bland. There’s no reason to assume that a person is different if he might have a book in his hand. So… Why did I think that?


       All men are supposed to be created equal, each and every person. We all have the same rights and deserve the same care and privileges regardless of color or of shape. But, I couldn’t even keep myself from restrictive judgment and prejudice when glancing at some random pedestrian. Then… Why did I think that?


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