Hyatt at the Capital. Waiting for the elevator in running gear. Sunglasses on. Earbuds in but not turned on. There are four people standing waiting as well. Two besuited, Caucasian gray haired men and two coiffed women.
The elevator opens with one passenger, a dignified African American man already inside. In we go. Notice everyone is wearing badges that say: Family Research Council circled with the slogan Watchmen on the Wall. Have seen many people in the hotel with these badges. Some with pastors collars on. There are signs for the group everywhere.
One of the gray haired men just next to but slightly behind me says to the other who is on the other side - heard your speech today. His tone is ascerbic.
Number two says - oh, yes in a soft voice.
The elevator stops and the African American gentleman exits.
#1 says in a loud, challenging voice. Yeah, I heard what you said about X. Do you know how long he's been in office.
#2: Well a couple of terms I think, I'm not...
#1: 16 years. How dare you talk about someone like that when you don't know your facts.
#2: murmers quietly.
Man #1: What you said was STUPID. (Shouting now) What were you thinking to make those STUPID comments in front of all those black people in the audience. What were you thinking to say something STUPID like that.
The STUPID comments are disrespectful sure. But it is the way he says - all those black people in the audience - that squeezes my breath out. The tone, the us versus them, all of it. Have very good racist radar.
I can feel the bristling animosity, the rigid anger that is spewing out of every pore of #1's body. If we weren't on an elevator, am pretty sure he would be punching #2 right now as he berates him.
The elevator opens and stops on another floor. Silence. Four more people get in.
A woman says to #2 - Oh hi, here is something for you and hands him a book. He murmers an awkward thanks. You can feel his relief, embarassment, fear.
#1 doesn't say anything else. The elevator is back at the lobby and we all depart.
I push the ipod. The music comes on. But it is not loud enough to drown out the ugliness of what went on in the elevator.