November 1998

I wonder, but don’t really want to know, because then I would need to act. Does that make me just as bad?I’m glad they know and like me at work. The local newspaper had a story on the front page about the conflict between Lou and our neighbors, and the charges of racism against him. Lou was thrilled about the article in the newspaper. I was mortified at the office, having everyone ask me about it, and having to defend his position.

We’ve been at odds with these neighbors since they moved in. The conflict itself is not because they are black; but because they are black, it has turned into a racial issue. They run a delivery service out of their house. I’m not sure what they deliver, but they make runs between the Washington DC area and New York City. Lou thinks that it is newspaper delivery service as a cover for running drugs. I don’t know, and frankly he doesn’t know either. What I do know is that around 3:00 am nightly, they are opening and slamming doors as they move boxes between vehicles and the house, and they have a variety of workers coming and going at all hours. We live at the end of a cul-de-sac, so you would think it would be easy to identify who does and doesn’t belong in the neighborhood from a safety standpoint, but there are constantly different people coming and going.

One day, I was doing work in our front yard and driveway, and there was a man apparently waiting for someone, leaning against a car in front of that neighbor’s house. I felt like he was staring at me, so I moved inside the garage. Lou asked what I was doing; I explained I was uncomfortable, and just wanted to move out of sight for a bit. Lou stalked down the driveway and yelled out, “Hey! What are you looking at?” He answered back, “Certainly not you”, with an emphasis on the word, “you.” Lou told him he should move on, the guy got in his car, and flipped Lou the bird while he drove away. Next thing we knew, there was a warrant out for Lou’s arrest for a racist hate crime. The owner of the house filed a complaint against Lou for harassment, and gave several examples, including flat out lies, claiming Lou had actually said, “What are you looking at, Nigger?” and that it was Lou who had given the visitor the finger. I saw and heard everything, and Lou did not call the guy a name at all. They also claimed that Lou is obviously a KKK supporter, and that he flaunts it by having Duke stickers on his car and wearing Duke clothing. They apparently think that the Duke logo refers to David Duke, rather than Duke University.

It didn’t become a black-white issue until the neighbors made it one. They couldn’t fathom that the controversy was all about the home-based delivery business. Now, it has morphed into a conflict between Lou and those black people who happen to have a delivery business. Lou thinks people like them are the reason that other people don’t like black neighbors. I argue that you can’t generalize like that. Lou is definitely prejudiced. He was brought up with the belief that black people are generally a certain way, and that the ones who are not are the exceptions. Not just blacks, but Jews, and Asians, and anyone who is different from him. I don’t sit by and let him make generalized offensive comments about people, so for the most part he has learned to keep his mouth shut around me, knowing that I’ll get disgusted by his attitude and disagree with him.

As far as the neighbor is concerned though, there is a real problem. Sometimes Lou pushes the conflict, and parks my car in front of their house just to bust balls and make it difficult. Then he gets mad at the other neighbors who don’t stand up against them as well. While Anjelica was with Lou, he got into a disagreement with the owner of the adjacent house, who didn’t think Lou should be stirring the pot by parking in front of the other house, which only made the delivery vans park in front of his home. Lou called the guy a spineless jellyfish for not challenging the delivery service neighbor, and for only being willing to speak up to Lou in front of Anjelica. Now I’m totally uncomfortable being in my own neighborhood.

One day, Lou was laughing while looking out our window, and pointed out to me that all of the tires in front of the delivery service house were flat. He had hinted to me once before when he had lost a lawsuit with someone that he was planning retaliation by punching a screwdriver into the other party’s car tires. I told him back then not to do it, and that revenge wasn’t going to change anything or make it better. I always wondered if he did it anyway. And I wonder about the neighbor’s tires.

Like with so many things, I wonder, but don’t really want to know, because then I would need to act. Does that make me just as bad?

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