Christmas. Crumblecake and Fish. At least that's what I thought they said, though on the table was roast beef, chocolate cake and various pastries, none of them crumbly. No crumblecake. No fish.
RelativeShe and RelativeHe had watched a show about Crumblecake and Fish on some mainstream news show. Crumblecake and Fish is a company that specializes in clothing meant for white people, RelativeHe explained.
"What white people," I asked. "How can you specialize in clothing for white people and not yellow or brown people?"
"Well, yeah," both RelativeHe and RelativeShe agreed – especially since RelativeShe is not white at all, but yellow or Korean or whatever you want to call this arbitrary junk genetic distinction between human hues.
"What about me?" I asked.
"No, definitely not your kind of white people," they agreed.
"So shouldn't I be wearing clothes made for black people?"
"I don't know, I don't think they make clothing just for black people. Anyway if they did, it wouldn't look right on you," said RelativeShe.
"Because nothing looks good on you. You're a sartorial anomaly," said RelativeShe.
"Oh yeah, true. But getting back to the clothing made for white people…"
"Well not All white people," sniffed RelativeHe.
"I would think not, because a lot of people I know wear clothing designed for black people even though most black people stopped wearing that stuff years ago," I said.
"You're confusing the issue," said RelativeShe.
"I'm just trying to understand how you can make clothing for white people and not for black people, I mean –"
"Okay, okay – rich white people," said RelativeHe.
"Oh, now I get it. So if a Rich Black Guy like Bill Cosby –"
"Exactly. Bill Cosby could wear their clothes but most black people wouldn't look good in them," said RelativeHe.
"Bill Cosby's no Denzel Washington," I said.
"Well, Denzel could wear these clothes too," said RelativeHe.
"But they're both black I thought you meant—"
"You know what we mean," snapped RelativeShe. "We mean regular black people wouldn't shop for this company's line."
"Because regular black people think these clothes are ugly? I sure do. I think –"
"No, because regular black people can't afford them," said RelativeHe.
"Okay, so this company specializes in clothing only Rich White People could buy even if they're black?" I said.
"Exactly," said RelativeHe.
"So, what's the problem?" I asked.
"Well, since they focus on clothing for white people –" began RelativeHe.
"-- and rich black people," I added
"Yeah right," RelativeHe was growing annoyed. "Because they focus on this kind of product, they only hire white people."
"Rich White People?" I asked.
"Don't be stupid. Why would a rich white person want one of their jobs?" said RelativeShe.
"What about executives?" I asked.
"Okay, executives," agreed RelativeShe.
"But there are no rich black executives of this company," I said.
"Exactly," said RelativeShe. "Which makes sense, because they specialize in –"
"But you just said rich black people would wear their stuff, so I don't understand –"
"It doesn't matter what you understand," huffed RelativeHe. "There are no black people, rich poor or middle class in this company. Period."
"Isn't that illegal?" I asked.
"That's what a bunch of people are crying about, even people who don't work for the company and never plan on working for the company, just on making trouble," said RelativeHe.
"Well the black folks who sat down at that lunch counter at Woolworth's weren't planning on eating there every day, they just –"
"This is not that kind of issue," snapped RelativeShe. "This is not like that. You're just like those people complaining, mixing politics where it doesn't belong."
"Just like black people don't belong in this company," I said.
"Exactly, because they don't make stuff for black people," said RelativeHe.
"Unless they're rich," I added.
"Forget about rich black people. There aren't enough in this whole country to make a damn difference," said RelativeHe.
"Well no wonder, cause they can't even get jobs in this old clothing company," I said.
"That's not why they're not rich," said RelativeShe. "No one gets rich working These jobs," said RelativeShe.
"So what's the problem?" I asked.
"There is no problem, these trouble-makers are saying they're discriminating against black people," said RelativeShe.
"Well, aren't they?" I asked.
"Well, yeah, but not because they're black for goddsakes. Because they don't make their kind of clothes," said RelativeShe.
"What kind of cloths?"
"You mean like Heavy Metal and Punk stuff?"
"What black people wear!" RelativeShe was getting sort of pissed.
"What do black people wear?"
"Who cares what they wear? They just don't wear this company's clothes," said RelativeHe.
"Unless they're rich," I reminded him.
"Forget about rich!" he snapped.
"But that's discrimination," I said.
"Exactly," said RelativeShe. "It doesn't matter if you discriminate against the rich, and it doesn't matter if you don't hire people who can't sell your clothes. You wouldn't hire a guy to work at Hooters, for god's sake."
"Well, actually, there was a case a few years back –"
"A troublemaker!" barked RelativeHe. "That guy didn't really want to work at hooters any more than I do."
"Then black people don't REALLY want to work at this company –"
"How should I don't know? It doesn't matter, because they wouldn't be right for the job. Even a black guy said it," said RelativeHe.
"Which black guy said what?" I asked.
"The black guy who was on the news show," said RelativeShe. He used the example of the black entertainment network."
"Totally clueless. See what happens when you don't watch television?" she said, exasperated, to RelativeHe.
"They only have black shows and only hire black actors," RelativeHe explained.
"So you think this is right?" I asked.
"Of Course it's right," said RelativeShe. That's what that whole civil rights thing was about."
"To give everybody the right to be segregated like white people?"
"No, stupid. To give them the power to hire who they want. Anyway, this guy on the news –"
"The black guy," I said.
"Yes, the black guy," said RelativeShe. "It's called fair and balanced reporting. They ask a black guy his opinion and if he says there's nothing wrong with it, there' nothing wrong with it."
"One black guy."
"Yes, that's called individualism," RelativeHe chimed in. "Individual rights and all that."
"For one black guy to speak for all black people on earth," I said.
"He's not speaking for anyone but himself, but if he thinks its okay, its okay, because we all have individual liberties and that stuff," said RelativeHe. "So anyway, this black guy's interviewed and he sees nothing wrong with it because there's no way the Black Entertainment Network is gonna hire Dan Rather, even if he's the best reporter in America, because they want a black anchorman. It's their right, just like it's the right of Crumblecake and Fish to sell white peoples' clothing and hire white people to make them."
"White people make the clothing?" I asked.
"Well no of course not," said RelativeHe. "They're made in Vietnam or Pakistan or somewhere, but white people design them and sell them and all of that and its their right because they know what white people want."
"They don't know what I want," I said.
"REGULAR white people, not political troublemakers," said RelativeHe.
"Yes, it really does make sense if you think about it," said RelativeShe. "They're not doing anything illegal. In fact, Mr. Smarty Pants, they even hired a black Lawyer."
"They don't hire black people, but suddenly they hire a black lawyer?"
"Yes, because that's the point. A black person doesn't know how white people should dress, but he can definitely understand the law, because under the law We're All Equal. It makes perfect sense."
"So you're saying segregation makes perfect sense?" I said.
"No, that's not what I said at all," said RelativeShe.
"Forget about it, he's impossible to talk to," said RelativeHe.
"Yes, you're right. That's his problem." RelativeShe looked at me and sighed.
"What's my problem?" I asked.
"You don't know anything. We can't discuss serious issues with you because you never watch the news. If you only got off the computer or away from those books to watch TV once in a while, like a NORMAL person, you'd know exactly what we're talking about."
Adam Engel wears tuxedos in honor of the Penguin at firstname.lastname@example.org
* MAN Talk