The feel of his clenched fist connecting with flesh felt so good to Dwayne. It
made him feel powerful, no longer oppressed. Free to dish out the punishment his dead
ancestors were unable to administer. The unholy gleam of justice burned bright in his
gaze as he savagely kicked the scrawny white boy who just happened to be crossing his
path. Dwayne felt no sympathy for him. He deserved it
“Damn, nigga, you ‘gone kill em.”
With one last vicious kick, Dwayne backed off, glaring coldly down at his
nemesis. “Get the fuck outta here,” he sneered.
The boy wasted no time jumping up and running off, his hand clutching his
bloody nose. His two homies, Elroy and Money stood braced against the schoolyard
fence, laughing at the haste with which the kid moved.
“Damn, Dwayne, you know that little bitch ‘gone go off and tell Principal
Robinson,” predicted Elroy.
Looking down at his bloody knuckles, Dwayne shrugged. “Shit, not if he know
what’s good. I’ll have his cracker ass in a body bag.”
It was a hot day in California. Dwayne adjusted his sagging jeans and replaced
his Roc-a-Wear hat. His brown skin beaded with sweat. He was tall for his sixteen years.
His muscled body vibrated with anger, while his jaded black eyes burned with cynical
“Eh, Money, your ma go and vote?” Elroy asked.
Money smirked. “ Hell yeah. Was up this morning at the crack of dawn, reading
her bible and shit. Lit so many damn luck candles, I thought the house was ‘gone catch
Elroy chuckled. “Yo, that sound like my ma, homie. She’n went to church all
damn Sunday; all the way into the night! Been telling me this and that about how our
time has come and whateva. Sits and watches that light skinned Negro like he’n Jesus and
shit; come down from heaven.”
Both laugh uproariously.
“Man, ain’t no woman listening to a damn word he saying, they just wanna suck
his dick,” replied Money.
Elroy elbowed him. “When dat nigga get into the White House, he gone have all
the bitches going Oh, oh, oh, Obama!”
Their laughter was cut short, when Dwayne grabbed Elroy by his shirt and threw
him up against the fence. There were a couple of late stragglers wandering in the
schoolyard. They glance over, only to quicken their step.
“You think that shit is funny, homie?” Dwayne demanded.
Elroy stared into the furious eyes of his friend, completely at a lost. “I was just
“Yo, Dwayne, chill the fuck out, dogg. We was just fucking around,” Money
“Well, this shit ain’t nothing to be joking about.” He let go of Elroy, and paced
away, only to jerk back around. “It’s election night. Tell me, what do you think is ‘gone
Money answered. “He might win, D. Think about it, man. A brother, in the white
house. That shits lethal, son.”
“You really think dem crackerjack motherfuckers up in Washington ‘gone let a
Negro up in their shit. You’re fucking trippin, M. They ain’t gone let that shit happen,”
“But the news…” began Elroy.
“It’s all lies, El! They ‘gone find a way to fuck us over. The white man always do.
It happened with Bush in Florida and it’s ‘gone happen again tonight. Somehow,
someway, even if they gotta put a clip in him to get it done.”
They stood in awkward silence, each in their own thoughts.
“Look, all I’m saying is that at lest he’s a candidate. Things are changing, D,”
said Money. “Yo, it’s like he the new King. Come together and all that shit.”
“Fuck King. Malcolm said it better. Black power,” Dwayne sneered.
Just then, Principal Robinson came around the corner. His hulking size made him
the fearless man he was in their ghetto inner city school, and his ruthlessness in enforcing
education ( not thug life), ran deep. He stared at the three teens, all dressed in what he
deemed the tupac fashion; baggy jeans, overlarge shirts, backwards caps, Tim boots and
thick chains around their necks.
Can’t provide for their families, jobless, but got ice around their necks, and
tricked out cars with rims bigger than themselves, thought Mr. Robinson. He didn’t hide
the disgust distorting his face. His gaze lingered on Dwayne.
He looked him in dead in the eye, and growled, “Either get your sorry asses into
class, or get the fuck out of my yard.” With that he turned around and walked back to the
entrance of the school.
Elroy and Money grabbed their book bags lying on the ground, and started
dragging their feet to the school. El peeked back when he realized Dwayne wasn’t
following. “Ain’t you comin?” he asked.
Dwayne stood a moment, staring hatefully at the school before him. He wanted to
say, for what? Wasn’t like this shit was gone get him anywhere. Didn’t matter how smart
one was, a nigger was a nigger, and that’s what will always keep one down.
“ Naw, you go’ head. I’ll catch up with you later.” With a scornful frown, he
sauntered out onto the infested streets of the hood.
Andy stomped into his home and banged the door shut. The sound made his collie
back away, and brought forth his dad from the kitchen.
“What the hell is the meaning of that? And why aren’t you at school?” It was then
that Andy’s father spied the bruises on his son’s face, and the bleeding from his mouth
and nose. “Jesus Christ! What the hell happened?” he asked, concerned.
Andy snatched away from his father’s meticulous inspection of his face. “It’s
nothing,” he gruffly answered.
“I don’t think it’s nothing, Andy. Who did this to you?”
“It was a nigger, that’s what it was!” sneered Andy.
A chuckle came from the couch, and Andy’s grandfather turned his head around
to grin at his son. “See there, Junior. You aren’t surprised, are you? That’s what you get
for bringing the boy into the goddamned ghetto. Nothing but riff raff, and niggers
crawling around the place. And this isn’t the first time this has happened!”
Junior glared at his father. “It’s bad enough you go around sprouting your hatism
dad, but leave Andy out of it. He’s naught but a fourteen year old boy.” He swiveled on
his son. “I am not going to tolerate you using that word in this house.”
“You’re just a nigger lover,” declared Andy.
Junior snatched Andy’s arm, and growled into his face. “How dare you talk that
way to me?”
“The boy’s got it right, you dipshit,” supported Andy’s grandfather.
“Shut up, dad!”
“I will not!” Grandfather shouted. He stood up, his white hair around his
weathered face, his cane firmly in his grasp. He stomped it against the carpeted floor.
“It’s the nigger pussy juice that’s got you turned against your own kind. That woman,
Yalonda, got you wrapped up in her nonsense.
Yolanda, what kind of name is that anyway? It sounds like the trash she is!”
Junior let go of Andy and took a menacing step toward his father. “You will not
talk to me like that in my own goddamn house, you fucking bigot. And leave Yolanda out
of this. You're just a shriveled old disease stuck in the thirties. It’s a new world dad, and
tonight it’s going to change for the better."
“Oh, yes because traitors like you are all signing up for the revolution. The savior,
they call him. Barack Osama I say! He’s a fucking terrorist, you idiot! Come to
revolutionize his people. The blacks can’t set a foot anywhere without destroying it. The
whole world will look like a hood, with Kunta Kente running it,” Grandfather predicted.
“Oh, and the one at the helm is soooo much better, is he? Or is it just alright,
because he’s white?”
“Jesus Christ dad, you even sound like one of them,” said Andy.
Junior turned around and gaped at his son, completely forgotten in the debate with
his father. Maliciousness gleamed in his son’s eyes as he stood with his fists tightly
clenched. “ See the nonsense your putting in my son’s head, dad!”
“Granddad is right. You’re activism has turned you against your own race. You
don’t see what we have to go through. All they talk about is being oppressed and how
racist the world is against them. Well, you know what I think? I think its all bullshit, dad.
A white boy, like me, gets beat up by a bunch a black dudes and does anyone care? Are
we on the evening news gathering sympathy from the whole fucking world!
Where’s our NAACP?! They’re the racists! Yet their like, ‘ we’re entitled because
of slavery.’ I had nothing to do with slavery. It’s not fair. Now, they’re going to feel more
empowered when that, that, monkey gets into the White House. Oh, I wish to God slavery
never ended. At least then, they knew their place!”
Granddad applauded. “I couldn’t have said it any better, son.”
“Andy, you’re just mad. You don’t mean that and you don’t really understand
what you’re talking about. Well, I’m mad too! I’m mad that people just can’t be people.”
“Do you even care that I got beat up?” Andy cried.
Junior knelt before his son. “Of course I care. That’s why I want change. Not for
white or black, but just for us. All of us.”
“What poppycock. You’re a disgrace to the color you were born.” Granddad
suddenly deflated, and sat heavily back down on the couch.
Junior sighed wearily, and rose to his feet. He examined his son’s face. His eyes
were narrowed and his light brown hair was tousled. “I’ll get some ice to put on that.” He
walked out of the living room and into the kitchen. Andy stood uncertainly for about a
second, staring after his father.
He’s a fool, he thought.
His grandfather beckoned him over. “You know, in my father’s day, if a slave got
out of hand or above themselves, you know what would happen? They’d be whipped
until their skin was raw and bleeding, until the flesh was twisted, and the stench of their
unworthiness to walk this soil of which my fathers’ founded permeated the air. Then
we’d lynch ‘em.”
“Lynch?” inquired Andy.
“Hang them, set them on fire so that they may go to the devil that spawned them.
It’s a forgotten lesson, Andy. Slaves have to pay. How will they learn, if they are never
punished by their masters? ”
Andy’s eyes clashed with his grandfather’s. Old hatred met new malice.
Lily heard the sounds of a struggle and almost convinced herself to keep walking.
It was none of her business. She heard the shrieks as she passed the girls laboratory, but it
was the menacing laughter of a group of girls that undid her. She swiveled around and
softly opened the girl’s bathroom door. A few feet away, three black girls and one
pueterican were throwing wet paper towels at a heap on the floor. The figure was
drenched with what was probably toilet bowl water.
The girl was crying hysterically, while the other three laughed as if this were the
greatest joke of all. The serious minded Lily did not find it funny.
“Leave her alone. “ Her voice came out low and soft, but bore more weight
behind it for its evenness.
The four girls stopped what they were doing, and stared at her. Lily was not
overly tall, but had a presence that belied her height. The girls didn’t like her, but they
weren’t hitting the girl on the floor with paper towels anymore either.
“Well, lookie, Barbie,” said one to the prone girl on the floor “Oreo has come to
save the day,”
“Fuck off, Sasha.”
Sasha, the obvious ringleader stepped forward. She was taller than Lily, (no doubt
the stilettos). Her hooped earrings jangled. She dared to lift the remaining wet paper
towel in her hand. “Oh, what are you going to do if I don’t?” she dared.
“You know.” There was no need to further explain as one of the other girls made
a beseeching noise behind Sasha. She slowly, but reluctantly lowered her arm.
Sasha smacked her lips, and tossed the cloth on the floor besides the white girl
who had finally risen a bit from the floor. “Come on girls, let Oreo and Barbie have their
After they’d left, Lily inquiringly looked at the girl who had finally gotten to her
feet. Her blond hair was a mess, and her blue jeans were dirt stained. Other than that, she
looked to be fine.
Shakily, she nodded. Lily turned to go. “Wait!” she called out.
Lily got halfway down the hall when the girl caught up to her. It was the end of
the school day, and no one lurked the halls
“I wanted to say thanks, for helping me.
“It’s no biggie,” replied Lily.
“It is to me. I’m Rochel, but my friends call me Na-na. I’ve been
here only a couple of weeks and that’s not the first time I’ve been ambushed in the
bathroom.” “No offense, Rochel, but it will doubtless happen again. Best to
either go when you get home, or start packing mace.”
Rochel laughed, then sobered when Lily didn’t join her.
“You’re not joking, are you? That’s just great. Last year I was living in Suburbia, this
year South Central.” “ Well, you better get used to it, because things only get worst
once you’re here.” Lily cut a sideways glance at Rochel. “I’m Lily, by the way.”
“Tell me something, Lily. Why’d they stop when you asked them
to in the bathroom? I mean, you’re not an undercover cop, are you?” asked Rochel.
Lily chuckled, as they made their way out into the darkening
evening. “That’s ridiculous. The undercover cops this city has are busy sleeping during
the day. The streets are on fire at night. As to your question, my dad is the principal and
he’s not someone you want to cross. This…” she looked back at the school, “is his house,
his rules. You break them, and, well, there are consequences.”
Rochel shivered. “He sounds tough.”
“He is tough. This isn’t suburbia where the
graduating rate is at least eighty percent. Here, its forty five and the rest are trash that no
one wants to take out.” “Why did she call you an Oreo?”
“It means black on the outside, white
on the inside,” Lily sardonically replied. Rochel stopped walking. “Are you
serious? They think you’re racist?” Lily frowned. “Of course not!”
“Well, why do they call you that?” asked
Rochel. “ Because their ignorant! I am an informed
and realistic person. Like my dad, I recognize problems with my community. I am here to
get an education, and to do something and be someone. They think I am trying to attain a
status above myself and circumstance. Apparently success comes with fair color. Idiots.”
They resumed walking. “Humph, my mama is white but
my dad is Mexican,” Rochel acknowledged.” In the white schools I attended, I’ve been
considered the only ethnic person there. They called gringo all the time. I can’t tell you
how many times I’ve been asked how I made it across the border. I move here and I’m
getting called Barbie because I’ve got blond hair and blue eyes. Seems wherever I go,
ethnically I don’t fit in.” “ How’d you come to be here?”
“It’s this economy. Dad worked in this factory in
Florida for twelve years. It was a decent job too, considering that most places are
cautious about giving a job to a man they stereotypically assume is an illegal alien. Still,
when dad’s company had to lay off workers, the foreigners were the first to go. We
moved back in with my mom’s family. Mom is sick. Has MS, so she was unable to help,”
concluded Rochel. “ Why’d tey let the foreigners go first?”
“ Us, foreigners are stuck up, didn’t you know?”
joked Rochel. “ We get on American soil and act too good for our own good. Thus, we
must always know that when it’s the American born versus us, we’ll always be getting
the short end of the stick. My dad worked for his company diligently for those twelve
years. Imagine being told he’s not as good as barely legal and inexperienced workers. It’s
not fair to us, to be in the middle like that. The American dream for us is to be here, just
not to survive here.” Lily nodded. “I don’t know which one is worst. I’m black, just not
black enough. ‘White’ has a language and apparently I speak it so I’m square. Not
intelligent, just of the mindset that I’m better than my skin color. “
“That’s bullshit. Anyway, Obama shows us that he is more
than just his skin color. He knows what it’s like to be stuck in the middle. Not to mention,
he is dropped dead gorgeous.”
Both girls laughed. “He’s going to win, you know,” confided Lily.
“ I’ll be sitting at home with my dad to watch it. Not because he’s black, but because he
stands for something that I think everyone has lost.”
“What’s that?” asked Rochel.
Dwayne couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He listened to the TV’s echoing
throughout the neighborhood. People sat on their couches, watching the celebration of
first black man to be president. The streets were ablaze tonight, but not with the fires of
hatred, but with the heat of the breaths that uttered, finally.
Was this really happening? Thought Dwayne. Was it not too late? He
closed his eyes and laid down his head between his knees, remembering the trip to Africa
that said it had been too late, too far for too long when his ancestors had been forced into
those ships; forced to endure those conditions. Treated like shit on a soil belonging to all
man, not just one. However, tonight, what would his ancestors say now?
Freedom; so once denied; was it here at last? The words of
Obama’s speech drifted to him.
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all
things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our
time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and
Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight,
disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we
have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and
It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in
this election at this defining moment change has come to America.
“ Hey nigger!” shouted a voice from the shadows.
Dwayne only caught the barest glimpse of pale blue eyes before the pain
speared his chest. Footsteps pounded away from him as he lay sprawled on his
mother’s front steps, staring up at the hazy sky. Blood dribbled from his mouth, as
his mother rushed out on a bloodcurdling scream, kneeling before him as
neighbors all rushed out of their homes.
Dwayne was oblivious to all of this, for he was too attuned to one voice.
This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity
for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the
American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are
one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and
doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless
creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.
As the pain receded to numbness in his body, in his dying heart, hope blossomed.
Andy walked quickly, blindly moving through the streets, his granddad’s smoking
forty five still in his hand. The shame eating at him by mindless rage had lessened,
leaving only a terrified and confused child responsible for the most despicable thing.
Stumbling, he made his way to a back alley and curled into a ball, tears rolling down his
cheeks. The night was stark and the darkness was claiming him. And then he heard a
This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to
make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things
In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the
temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and
immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.
He won. Strangely, he didn’t resent the strong voice of the man he had assumed to
hate for in that moment nothing comforted him more. He wanted to look up into the
window at the television set to see him, to look upon one thing that seemed right in such
a wrong time, but he daren’t. In the depths of his despair, he could only listen to the
voice; the voice of change, dad had said.
To those -- to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those
who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have
wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more
that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the
scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy,
liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.
That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be
perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must
“Tomorrow,” Andy breathed. Never had the word held such promise, despite the
night, even for him.