“And the neighbors whisk the boy back to his building while the man screams at the boy, calling him what he does”
-Ross Gay, Against Which
There were two white boys on my block growing up; Grant, who lived across the street in one of the houses adorned with flowers and American flags on concrete porches, and Jonathan, who lived in the apartment above ours, whose mom did drugs with mine. All three of us meek, unlike a group of black boys, all brothers who lived nearby. And when Grant and one of the brothers scuffled over kickball in the street because Grant wasn’t following the rules, Grant’s mom ran out and screamed:
“You niggers leave my boy alone!”
And that was the first time I heard it. Loud and proud, with the hard “R.” And we left Grant alone. But after we dispersed, his mom said to me gently:
“I wasn’t talking about you Joey.”
At which point I entered Grant’s house uneasily, but anything other than an ill-behaved nigger.