Thursday, November 12, 2015

Steinbeck glimpses a black man's different life

One winter dusk when the sidewalks were iced I stood in my window looking out and saw a tipsy woman come out of the bar, slip on the ice, and fall flat. She tried to struggle up but slipped and fell again and lay there screaming maudlinly. At that moment the Negro who worked for me came around the corner, saw the woman, and instantly  crossed the street, keeping as far from her as possible.

When he came in I said, "I saw you duck. Why didn't you give that woman a hand?"

"Well, sir, she's drunk, and I'm Negro. If I touched her she could easily scream rape, and then it's a crowd, and who believes me?"

"It took quick thinking to duck that fast."

"Oh, no sir!" he said. "I've been practicing to be a Negro a long time."
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley in Search of America  (New York: Penguin Books, 1986), p. 267 (orig. published 1962)

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