scott warren wilson

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Dec 2

10.27.65

In ways, today resembled a razor - so clean and cool as to have an edge, a pure sheen. And an incident earlier had a rending effect. A large group of African Studies professors and advanced students checked into the Warwick for a two or three day-long convention. Late this evening, toward the end of my watch, I inadvertently greeted a large, robust, businessman-type - white - prior to the Negro who was due to be assigned his room next. The Negro called to my attention the fact that he was at the desk first, but in such a way, a patronizing (defensive) way, that I chose to ignore him and continue with the other man. The Negro waited all the while before launching into a tirade against me and my rudeness (not unjustifiably, I admit). I, foolishly, instead of attempting to placate him or to explain, became equally contemptuous and told the man not to correct me or to confuse me with one of his students. Later, this distressed me bitterly, especially since the Negro speaks English with a crisp, foreign accent - an African Negro for whom possibly the United States at some distant time seemed a haven. He now teaches at a university in Tennessee where certainly such confrontations as tonight’s with those more hostile than I if not particularly with those more hostile than I seemed to be, have somewhat unbalanced the man. Not only later, but even during the volley or our exchange, it seemed terribly sad to me and I disrespected myself, but I would not withdraw. On the right side of the ledger were something like sensitivity (I instantly summed up his situation as an innocent black foreigner in the American (“land of the free”) South) and compassion while on the other side were a refusal to retreat and an arrogance dimly having to do with Virginia Plantations, salve cemeteries and my often forgotten but never denied heritage.