The Laughter of Black Men

POOR correspondent - Posted on 06 July 2010

Tony Robles/PNN
Saturday, September 5, 2009;

It’s one of the most beautiful sounds, maybe the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. You go through life working jobs and navigating through the nonsense and the real and sometimes the lines separating them are so blurred that you can’t tell one from the other. A great writer once said, “Men have ways of showing their petty biases and prejudices”. One doesn’t have to be a great writer to draw that conclusion.

I sit at work (and occasionally stand) and I hear the other officers (I work as a security guard) talk about black people—mostly black men. They say, I saw this black guy the other day and he did this and that and that and this. I listen to how the words black guys roll off their tongues and onto the floor. I watch the way they spit on the ground.

This one fellow with whom I share a common employer talked about how a black guy came into the supermarket that he’s hired to guard…just the other day…and got offended and belligerent when asked to produce his receipt. I asked the guy if the customers at Safeway in the Marina are asked to produce their receipts. He didn’t have an answer. I could tell that it got him thinking but in the time it took to bat the lash on one’s eye, it was back to “I saw this black guy and he…”

I listen and know that black guy is code for nigger. I figured that my co-worker would know this, being ½-Raza. But somewhere along the way this got lost; somehow the dirt from the hands of his ancestors that carved life into the faces of mountains, that planted and fed a civilization disappeared in the wind that set the colonizer’s boats sail. Towards the end of our shift he offered to buy me a tall café mocha (and showing much class, asked me if I preferred white or regular mocha).

When I was growing up, there were no black guys, only brothers. My father was Filipino and the blood in his veins was black, like soy sauce rivers that the Issei and Nisei saw on their way to the concentration camps. I used to hear the laughter of the brothers in my dad’s room listening to records—Miles, Smokey, The Temps—and drinking Ripple. I would sit and listen behind that old fashioned wooden door with the dark brown shellac that separated my father’s room from mine, and the laughter of black men would hit the walls and shatter the glass and rise like the tide on the most beautiful Sunday morning. It was life, it was the flow, it was love and tragedy and music and poetry and everything I ever needed to know—the sound of their laughter.

And I see brothers who are suffering, been through it all. Ask them for their receipt? They’ve paid with their lives, their hearts, their tears many times over. I say, ask them for their laughter. Ask them to tell a story that will bring the laughter from their mouths and the sun and the world to its knees. Give me their laughter. Give me the beautiful laughter of black men



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