Most people who have never been to New York State think it all looks like Time Square; a huge, sprawling metropolis of sky-scrapers, neon lights, and populated by a diverse group of liberal elitists, and Hillary voters. They are surprised to learn that if NYC and Long Island are removed, the state consists of corn fields, dairy farms, rolling mountains, lakes, rivers, and Trump voters.
I relocated to Long Island in 2004, but I spend most of my life in the small, upstate city of Binghamton; a post-industrial wasteland which consists of closed factories, a declining population, and the customary opioid epidemic. While my political leanings were very left-of-center relative to the area; pro-choice, marriage equality, separation of church and state etc., I still maintained several Alt-right mindsets. Slavery ended over 100 years ago. Why are Black people still bitching? Affirmative Action was an attack against more qualified Whites. Also, why is Black Power acceptable, but White pride is racist? Now forgive me. After all, I grew up in a family where it was acceptable to tell the most recently learned racial jokes at the dinner table.
After some searching, I found myself working for Guitar Center in Commack, NY. Unsurprisingly, the departments were divided along racial lines. Guitars and amplifiers where sold by Whites, and Pro Audio and DJ Equipment was mostly manned by Black and Latino associates. It was here that I met James Doe. (His real name by the way) https://www.facebook.com/legasey.doe
Anyway, James is a muscular, tattooed, dreadlocked, gun metal black rapper from Brooklyn who had as much of a distrust for Whites, and especially Upstate hicks like me, as I did for folks that looked like him. But, as working conditions require, we began to have interactions, which started becoming more philosophical, and political.
I remember one time he raised the point: “Sure Niggers kill people, but we don’t eat ‘em like y’all motherfuckers. Why are all serial killers white, anyway?”
I thought: “Oh, I get it. Jeffrey Dahmer does his thing, and now all crackers are cannibal sociopaths.”
Another day, he was busting my balls telling me how he’d take me on a tour of the inner city, but we’d be safe as he still had his “ghetto card.”
I said: “James. You rap about all this gangster, shooting, hustling shit, but you hold a full-time job, live in Suffolk County with your Jewish girlfriend and your daughter, and you go over to her parent’s house for dinner! Ghetto card??? You keep it next to your library card?”
We would exchange barbs like this quite frequently, but one day he confided in me: “I like you Pat. When the race war starts, and Black people rise up, I’ll protect you and make sure you’re safe.”
I replied: “I think it’ll go the other way, but I’ll make sure you don’t get lynched.” We went back and forth for a while with this dark exchange about the possible outcomes of the looming Civil War II when a thought came to me.
I said: “James. This makes me think of Heinrich Himmler.” James wasn’t an avid History Channel watcher, so I have him a little background.
“Himmler was a top Nazi, architect of The Final Solution, and largely responsible for the death of over six million Jews during World War II. As the story is told, Himmler and other top Nazis were brainstorming around a table, and were all supportive of exterminating the Jews. The problem was, one Nazi would speak of how much they liked their neighboring Jewish family and wondered how he could keep them safe. Another spoke of his Jewish accountant being a regular dinner guest, and how he should be spared. Himmler raised his hand to silence the round table and said: ‘Everybody has their favorite Jew. They all die.’”
James looked at me for a second, then his face lit up.
“So, I’m your favorite Nigger?”
I replied: “James, you are so my favorite Nigger.”
We laughed hysterically, proceeded to partake in a heartfelt man hug, and I feel that James and I had an epiphany.
After that; We was homies, yo! We worked customers together, augmenting our respective paychecks. We shared retail tasks and looked out for each other in a cut-throat commissioned sales environment. I went to his parties as a pronounced minority, smoked blunts, and got shit-faced on Hennessy. I brought him out to metal shows, so he could see his pro audio equipment sales deafening a mosh pit in a largely Caucasian environment.
I’ve been on Long Island for close to fourteen years now, and James remains one of my favorite people that I’ve met down here. I wish there was a lesson here that our divided society would be open to embrace, but it’s unlikely. Still, if a redneck from Binghamton, and a rapper from Brooklyn can find friendship, maybe…