For Kevin

I don’t know if it’s something I learned from society, or if it’s an inherent quality of my own, or if it’s the way I was raised, but foreigners and their “American” descendents have given me an uncomfortable feeling my entire life. But it doesn’t stop there; associating with any west-sider regardless of race also causes me discomfort. It’s really just anyone who I view as “below me” in society. The things that would constitute someone as “below me” are poverty, addiction, and immodesty. It isn’t really about race; it’s about lifestyle. But it just so happens that most of the people who live in poverty, addiction, and immodesty are of other races and it’s because of that that I am constantly being mistaken for a racist. In actuality, I am far worse that a racist. I am a supremacist. Whites who live like the Hispanics of the west side don’t qualify as white to me. I am superior to them. I feel that way and I act that way. However, I must hurry and tell you, before you deem me entirely unchristian, that my sense of supremacy has only recently emerged from my subconscious, that I’m doing my best to overcome it, and that it isn’t a constant thing. There have been times when I made an effort to like someone who I would have deemed as “below me” and I have and things have been fine.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I had sewing first period and I sat next to Kevin Hudson. Kevin had the faint smell of marijuana woven into his black clothes. He had a skateboard for a constant companion, and looked as if he were a barbershop fugitive—if there is such a thing. Regardless, when I looked at Kevin I could tell that he was a good person. His face was etched with a goodness, a goodness that told me Kevin was a good person who was simply caught up in bad things. That goodness is what made me try talking to Kevin. I would ask him how his weekend was, how his [whatever we were making in Sewing class] was coming, if he liked this class, what he thought of Mrs. Baker, our teacher, but Kevin would never respond to me beyond “alright” and “fine.” He never made eye contact with me. I can assume that Kevin was glad when class ticked down to the last five minutes because, during those last five minutes, announcements would come on over the PA system and we would all have to turn our sewing machines off so we could listen to the student body officers make announcements about whatever sport was in season, what the cafeteria was serving, and things of that riveting category. We all knew that “announcements” was really just a way for S.B.O’s flirt with other S.B.O’s and we all knew that the biggest reason any of them even made the announcements was because they just liked having their voice carry through the entire school—reverberating off of the eardrums of the entire student body. I’d have to say the most painful part of announcements was a new section that had been instituted that year called “cool kid of the day.” Whoever was delivering the announcements that day would say something like “and the cool kid of the day is, [some jock, cheerleader, or other social dominant]” and that would end the announcements. I was getting tired of the “cool kid” always being someone who already felt cool. I thought it would be cool to use “the cool kid of the day” to make someone who didn’t feel cool, or noticed, or liked, feel like they were. So after school I jogged out to the tennis courts where I found Greg Anderson, our student body president, and told him how I wanted to nominate Kevin Hudson for “cool kid” of the following day. Greg, of course, had no idea who Kevin Hudson was but agreed to make him the “cool kid”—writing “cool kid kevin hudson” on the back of his hand to serve as a reminder. The next day in sewing class I tried to talk to Kevin but again with no success, announcements came on over the PA, Mrs. Baker made us turn our sewing machines off and be quiet, and we all listened to the same meaningless crap that flowed into the room. I was getting excited though and when Greg Anderson said, “And the cool kid of the day is…KEVIN HUDSON!” I looked over at Kevin and saw his good face light up. I couldn’t hide my smile and Kevin and I sat there with me beaming at him because I felt like I’d finally broken through and him giving me this half smirk that I understood meant “thanks” while, for the first time, looking me in the eye. “You know, that’s a pretty cool way to leave this place.” Kevin said to me. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Today is my last day—I’m dropping out.” And my smile faded, and my stomach sank, and I was sad. We stood in the hall talking. When a teacher walked by and told us to “get to class” we went over to the stairs and sat down on them to finish our conversation. With Kevin’s skateboard next to my Abercrombie bag, our legs outstretched in front of us, Kevin’s clothes in black denim ripped at the knees and mine enshrined with my designer jeans. I asked him why. He told me that he just didn’t like school. I told him that I didn’t like being in school either. He told me that it was different than that. Most of his friends had already dropped out and his parents didn’t really care whether he did or not so he was going to. We finished talking; I told him how sad I was. He said he’d see me around.
I saw him a few times at different things—once at a football game, once at McDonalds, and once he was just walking around the halls of his old high school. Each time though I would go up and talk to him regardless of whether or not he was surrounded by his scummy friends and I was always genuinely excited to see him. We’d talk, catch up a bit, his friends would either look at me weirdly and back away or they’d say something pervy and Kevin would tell them to shut up. After my sophomore year I didn’t see him again though—until yesterday.
I was shopping downtown. I came out of J.Crew, rounded the corner, and there was Kevin Hudson sitting on a bench underneath a mass of black matted hair that touched his knees because he was hunching over trying to light a cigarette. I recognized him almost immediately though. I kind of looked at him for a second, he looked up at me and when he did I saw that there was only a hint of that same goodness that was once embedded in his face, a face that now looked hard and empty. His evolved face alarmed me. I didn’t know what to do. I quickly broke the eye contact that I had once found as a token of trust and I just kept walking. I just kept walking clinging to my stupid shopping bags at my sides carrying my stupid clothes—my stupid clothes that would keep the lower classes and the different races away. As I walked away I was filled with shame and remorse and asked myself why I didn’t stop and talk. It’s because of the way he looked, the light was gone from his eyes and it gave me that same uncomfortable feeling that I always get. The only difference was that this time I felt sorry because of it. I felt sorry for treating Kevin, my hard-earned friend, like just another bum on the street. That was the difference. I wish now that I would have thrown my shopping bags as far away from me as possible and then walked back to Kevin Hudson, sat down next to him, and asked him how he was doing. That’s what I wish I would have done.
You see, I haven’t always been this way. I’ve had other Kevin Hudson experiences where I got to know someone who was different and a little bit criminal but mostly just different and I liked them and they taught me things about how to love humanity.
When I was in the car the other day with Matt, he told me that I need to love all races and classes and try to understand them. I told him no, I don’t because when we die we will all be white and we’ll all be upper class. He asked me, “How many different races does God understand and love?” “All of them” I said. “In order to be like God, how many races and social classes of people do you need to understand and love?” “All of them” I answered.
I want to go find Kevin Hudson. And if I can’t find him then I’ll go to Liberty Park and lay my blanket down next to a nice looking bum and just look up at the sky with him, I want to talk to him about his life and tell him about mine. I think I’ve realize that even though these people are responsible for most of the crime in this country and they don’t contribute to society in a way that is recognized as valuable, they are people and loving them makes me feel good and happy so that’s what I’ll do. And even though they smell like my old track bag, or dumpster water, or beer, or Kevin Hudson, those are their sins and if pride were odorous then I would reek too. We all smell in one way or another, we all have our problems, some of them are easy to see from the outside and some of them aren’t. Kevin’s are. Mine aren’t. I want to love all the Kevin’s of the world. I realize it’ll be hard. I know that the next time I have the opportunity to mingle with those that I previously categorized and “below me” my supremacist-self is going to come boiling to the surface screaming, “they’re different and dangerous and you’d do well to just stay away!” But if I will let the love that I’ve found for people like Kevin, people that I once despised and rejected, if I will let that love kill the supremacy within me then I think I’ll start to understand my Savior better and I will be more like Him and isn’t that what my life should be all about?


Chan said...

Third time is a charm: I'm not sure what to say about this post. You are so un-P.C. But, you are also so earnest and, I guess, penitent that I can't help but like this essay. I like best the part where you are walking through the mall after seeing Kevin.

Katie said...

I liked this post, too. Clearly and honestly written, I think. And it seems (no matter the speed) you're overcoming this battle.

Matthew R. Hall, Esq. said...

The paragraph about you ignoring him hurt to read, and maybe because it's because I can completely imagine what he was thinking about you and what he felt.

But I'm glad you're being brave enough to admit and face this.