It was a warm summer day in 2019. I needed a burger.
Not just any burger. But a good one. I was cruising Waterford and debated between Culvers butter burgers and the better burgers at The Pontiac Lake Inn.
I’ve been to the PLI before and the biggest argument I’d ever gotten into is when waitress told me this would be the best burger I had all year. I smiled.
“Are you sure about that,?” I asked.
“Honey I don’t lie,” she replied.
I ordered the cheeseburger and fries. Now I don’t know if it was the best burger I had in 2017, but it was very high on my list. I liked it better than Red Coat Tavern which people in Royal Oak place high on a pedestal.
On this warm summer day two years later I decided to go to the PLI and sat at the bar next to a fidgety old white guy who looked like he needed a hug. He mumbled something and the first thing that came out of his mouth that I understood was “I don’t like niggers.”
He caught me on a good day. Normally I would have cussed his ass out. But I was having such a wonderful day I let him slide. Besides, since having a stroke four years ago I am a lot more passive and forgiving. So I replied with humor.
“I don’t like them either,” I said. “If you see one let me know.”
In times like this I try to educate and assists bigoted people. I told the old man that what he said wasn’t cool, that he’d run into the wrong black guy and get his ass kicked — if he were lucky — and shot if he wasn’t.
This man turned into my best buddy. He didn’t mean to say what he said. He was not suggesting that I was a nigger. He simply meant he did not like bad people of any race. He claims he calls bad white people niggers.
I bring this story up today because I mentioned it on Twitter and I got the usual response from some white people. They didn’t believe the story because nobody would say this to a black guy in these modern times.
Really? You don’t think if I got caught in the Trump Capitol riot that some dude carrying a confederate flag and worked into a frenzy would not use racial slurs on me? I used to worry about a guy who cruises near the house in a pickup truck waving a confederate flag and “Don’t tread on me” banner.
Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think we could become drinking buddy’s. I used to fear white people. I never feared bodily harm. I worried about what came out of their mouths. I used to limit where I went just in case. I no longer do that and I thought maybe I should reinstate my policy after the PLI incident. However, no voices were raised and the dude apologized a million times.
He even offered to buy me a beer, but I declined. After talking to this man — and not screaming — I summarized he was having a bad day. He had bigoted and racist feelings but realized he was wrong and wanted to repent.
Maybe he left the PLI a better man that day.
When I worked at The Detroit News two guys used to fill my voice mail with racial slurs about six or seven times a year. They would wait until after I wrote a big breaking story or after a column that drew a big response.
And the calls would go something like this:
“You must be feeling good about yourself today. But I want to remind you that you are still a stupid, no good spear chucking nigger who only got his job because of affirmative action.”
This went on for 15-20 years right up until I retired in 2015. I told one of my editors about the phone calls and he immediately did not believe it. No one talks that way, he said. So I let him listen to one of the calls and he was shocked and apologetic. How come I did not notify the paper earlier about this?
I shrugged. I thought this was just part of life and a part of the job. Besides, if you bitch too much you lose your audience and are accused of whining or becoming an attention whore.
I asked a friend who thinks he knows everything how come many white people don’t believe you when you bring up stories like this.
“The vast majority of white people do not harbor these feelings, therefore they do not believe their fellow white man would do something they would not do. They want to think of the United States as this perfect union and they want to pretend that the racist history in this country never happened.”
The incident at the PLI did happen whether you want to believe it or not.Find Terry Foster Podcast here: