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Out Of Africa

A Short Story


R.E. Prindle

It is an ancient mariner

And he stoppeth one of three:

‘By they long grey beard and glittering eye,

Now wherefore stoppst thou me?



     Lost in his thoughts Dewey sat silently as the bus pulled into the Lansing station.  Dewey had assumed that as on his previous cross country trip he would change buses in Chicago.  He now learned that there would be a two hour delay in Lansing instead.  This is the way life is lived, somebody tells you there is a two hour delay no one had bothered to tell you about when you bought the ticket so there is a two hour delay.  To argue and fight is counter-productive so the delay just becomes an opportunity for something else to happen.

     Dewey nevertheless stepped down from the bus with a certain amount of disgust.  As he was descending a bus from Chicago pulled in stopping across the concourse.

     Watching with a curious idle eye Dewey noted the passengers as they came round the front of the bus.  He noted a Black guy with dark blue letterman’s sweater with a big entwined ND on the front who got off tentatively like he was hoping he wouldn’t be recognized.  Rather than walking across the concourse to the terminal he elected to lounge on a bench against the wall.

     Dewey was eyeing him intently when a voice from just behind his right ear queried:  “Do you know who that is?’

     Startled Dewey replied:  ‘Ah, no.’ hoping the owner of the voice would go away.

     ‘That Darkie there used to be Webster Kirksey.  Ever heard of him?’

     Dewey was startled by two things.  The use of the term Darkie was considered derogative and not in social use.  But Dewey was non-critical; he always believed let them have their say.  The second was the reference to a living man as ‘used to be’ as though he no longer was.

     ‘Webster Kirksey?  Yeah.  I have heard of him.  He’s from my home town.  He used to play guard for Valley High.  He was hot stuff, burned up the whole Valley league.’

     The man smiled with a connoisseur’s appreciation of Dewey’s colorful language.  ‘Yes.  That’s right. From there he was recruited by Notre Dame.’

     ‘Oh yeah?  How’s he doing there?’

    ‘He’s already done it.  He used up his eligibility last year.’

     ‘No kidding.  Been that long?  Graduated last year.’

     ‘You didn’t hear me say graduated.  You heard me say he used up his eligibility.  Jungle bunnies like that don’t graduate.  They don’t have what it takes to get in school to begin with.  Look at him now.  You wouldn’t think that this time last year he was eating high on the hog served by White Roosters and tender White chicks would you?’

     ‘Well, Mister, I’m having a hard time following you.’  Dewey replied hoping to discourage this man.  His curiosity was stronger than he realized because he quickly added:  ‘Who are you anyway?’

      With a quiet deep chuckle the man replied:  ‘My name is Lamont Cranston.’

      ‘It is not!’  Dewey replied in disbelief.

     ‘As I live and breathe.’  The man chuckled.  ‘My daddy’s name was Cranston and my mama named me Lamont.’

     ‘Oh yeah?’  Dewey said still disbelieving.  ‘What do you do?’

     ‘Well, Son, for the last thirty years I’ve been a newspaperman.’

     ‘A reporter, huh?’  Dewey said admiringly.  He’d always wanted to be a reporter.

     ‘Well, yes, a reporter, newspaperman, I’ve done a lot of jobs but now my time is drawing to a close.’


     ‘No. No.  Liberalism.  All the kids coming up that they hire are Liberals with all these what they call socially constructive ideas.  They don’t have much tolerance for an old salt like me.  They call me a Neanderthal when they’re angry, a conservative when they’re mild.  It’s only a matter of a year or two before they force me out.  Little bigots that they are.’

     ‘Get you fired, huh?

     ‘Oh no.  They’ll just harass me until I quit.  Look at the beat I’m walking now.  Bus stations.  What’s next?  They’ll post on the bridge to interview the defeated young White women crossing over in search of nigger dick.  No.  My time’s up.  That’s OK.  I’m prepared.’

     ‘You could fight.’

     ‘No.  Wrong end of the pendulaum.  When you’re on the right end and it’s swinging left you don’t have a chance.  I know what it means to be on both ends of the stick.  Now I’m on the short end.’

     Whatever Cranston was saying passed over Dewey’s head.

     ‘Do you get many stories at bus stations?’  Dewey asked naively with knit inquisitive brow.  His inquisitiveness didn’t concern his question which Lamont Cranston understood.

     ‘I’ve got a real story across the way there but I’ll never get it in print.’

     ‘What kind of story?’  Dewey asked who saw nothing but a desolate Negro lounging on a bench.

     ‘A tale of two races.’  Cranston replied with an enigmatic smile.  ‘Across the way there is an encapsulated history of several hundred years.  You heard me use the world ‘nigger’ a moment ago but I’ll bet you don’t know what the word means.  Don’t give me any dictionary definitions either.’

     Dewey was about to dish up some simplistic definition when he was arrested by Cranston’s words.  He had a couple of hours to while away, might as well let the old greybeard loon talk.  ‘Um. No.  Just that it’s a derogatory term for Negro.’

     ‘That it is and much more.  It’s more than derogatory, much more, it’s a statement of perceived reality by both Blacks and Whites such that it can’t be used by Whites while Blacks use it in only the most offensive way.

     You probably think that it’s a term that originated in the South but it’s not.  It goes back to when the White man first encountered the Blacks of West Africa.  Have you read much of the early African adventures of the White man?  No?  Neither has anyone else.  Well, time has passed and it would be difficult to reconstruct how the unregenerate Black appeared to Whites and vice versa.  Richard Burton once made the comparison quite seriously as between Crown and Clown but that was a couple hundred years later.  However, in 1862 Burton felt justified in making that comparison.  He perceived a permanent gulf in mental development between Blacks and Whites.  Imagine therefore how it must have seemed in 1650 when the Western slave trade was beginning.

     Remember that even by then Europeans were no  longer allowed slavery within their own dominions.  It was considered wrong for one human to enslave another human, within White dominions of course.  Outside they were quite willing to enslave anyone Black or White and did.  With the Blacks though it was different.  Europeans considered Negroes to be subhuman.  Even though they considered the Chinese to be of lesser humanity than themselves they still considered them as humans and therefore could not enslave them.

     This feeling was conveyed to the Negro who felt it keenly.  He felt it even more keenly because he feared that it was true.  So, when the White man thought and said ‘nigger’ he meant someone he perceived as being completely devoid of human characteristics except in form.  At best he considered the Negro a trainable ape.

     When the Negro heard ‘nigger’ he understood its full meaning.  More importantly as he made the comparison between himself and Whites he came to the exact same conclusion.  This in turn drove the Negro mad.  You probably think the term ‘White Trash’ originated in the United States too, but it didn’t.  The West African Negro invented the term so that he could feel superior to at least a portion of White people.  When the Negro calls someone ‘White Trash’ it is meant to be as devastating as when a White calls him a ‘nigger.’

     It would be like Dorothy entering Oz except she had her own so she was treated with respect.  The Negro had nothing; he didn’t have his own.  That is part of the meaning of the Negro lament ‘God Bless the child that’s got his own’.  So when he heard Whites say ‘nigger’ he heard the absolute contempt it implied while furthermore subconsciously agreeing with it.  The term became a title of reproach within his own community.  Thus if you listen on streetcorners closely you will hear one Black refer contemptuously to another as a ‘nigger.’  If he just wants to put him in his place he refers to him as ‘Negro.’  The latter is hurtful the former is devastating.  There’s no worse name one person can call another.  To be a ‘nigger’ is the be the lowest, a subhuman form.

     In West Africa after the legal exportation of slaves from West Africa ended in about 1800 and Blacks and Whites co-existed on an equal legal basis, at least in the British colonies, for a White to call a Negro a ‘nigger’ was an actionable offence carrying a fifty pound fine.  I’ve never learned if those were British pounds but if they were that’s a five to ten thousand dollar fine in today’s dollars, fairly serious money.

     It became necessary for Whites in West Africa to disguise their feelings especially as they were tried before a Black jury and Black juries always convicted a White man and acquitted a Black. 

     In the US where Whites are in the majority rather than Blacks the term isn’t actionable yet but it is socially offensive.  I only use the word where I know it won’t offend.’

     Dewy was taken back.  ‘How do you know I’m not a Liberal and won’t be offended.’

      ‘Oh, there’s just something in a reasonable man’s face.’  Cranston said soothingly.  ‘When I said I didn’t think you’d be offended all I meant was that I thought you were intelligent enough to hear the facts and judge them.’

     ‘Oh.’  Said Dewey, allowing himself to be flattered but still suspicious of the smiling Lamont Cranston.  Still Cranston held him with his glittering eye.

      But then the flattery wore off and Dewey thought he had better assert his independence.  ‘So what’s that got to do with Webster Kirksey?’  He said with appropriate testiness.

     ‘On the unspoken level Kirksey is that nigger I’ve been discussing.  On a very real but unmentionable level Kirksey is the equivalent of a trained ape.  He can play basketball like a wizard but if he couldn’t he would never have been seen on the campus of Notre Dame.  That guy is so dumb he doesn’t understand why there’s two ends to shoes laces and he used them everyday.  There isn’t a college in the world whose academic standards are low enough to admit him, although that may be changing.

      Until just recently athletes have had to meet minimal academic standards.  Minimal is meant in kind of a philosophical sense.  But the pressure on schools to win have made them relax those standards for White students;  there never were any standards for Negroes.  They kind of make their own rules as they go along.

     But the college coaches see some oustanding Black athletes who could help them win going to waste so they pressure for academic standards to be waived.  That’s not spelled w-a-v-e-d  if you know what I mean.  The social dynamics are more complex than that but that’s how guys like Webster Kirksey get to schools like Notre Dame.

     I’m not a hard man;  Webster Kirksey has got his gripe.  Look at him over there.  He’s a lost man.  For four years big business men and beautiful White girls shouted out:  Hi, Webster, way to go man.  Now no one will recognize him although I bet half the people here know who he is.  He played against State and won every year.

     Those Big B types used to give him a new Caddie to drive every year.  On loan of course.  They took his last one from him the day after the season ended.  Kirksey dropped out the next day.

     They used to pay for weekends in Chitown; give him spending cash; send White girls, sweet and tender stuff too, around to him in his room…’

     Dewey gasped.

     ‘You don’t know the half of it.  There wasn’t anything too good for Webster Kirksey until his last game was over and then there wasn’t anything good enough.  Webster Kirksey!  Look at him.’

     Dewey looked.  He still saw nothing but a Black guy in a Notre Dame letter sweater lounging on a bench.

     ‘Uh, looks OK to me.  What am I supposed to see?’

     ‘I’m afraid you’d have to go into training to make a reporter, Son.  I guess it isn’t  as clear to you as it is to me.  I’ll tell you what you don’t see.  You didn’t see Webster Kirksey when he passed through here last Christmas.  Last year he was the star guard, the fireplug of the Notre Dame team; they couldn’t win without him.  Last year there were people standing around him gawking admiringly.  White people walked by him smiling approvingly.  White girls shouted across the concourse, a safe distance from his blackness:  Hi, Webster, or even, Webbie.  Last year he was Webster Kirksey; this year his name is mud.  No one will even look at him even though he wears his varsity sweater with that big ND with four varsity basketballs.

      Varsity!  What does that mean?  These guys are professional athletes who couldn’t get into college any other way.  They stay only as long as they play.’

     ‘I think college should be academic.’  Dewey said somewhat lamely after due reflection.  ‘But you got to admit that Black guys are better athletes.’

     Cranston looked at Dewey sharply, paused, then said acerbically:  ‘I don’t have to admit any such thing.  You obviously don’t know what’s going on.’

     Whether Dewey knew what was going on or not he wished this old greybeard, Lamont Cranston, would stop another lonesome traveler.

     ‘Most people have got no idea what is happening with Negroes.  If they had access to all the information, which Liberals will never let them have, they wouldn’t even know how to interpret it.  We’re in the midst of a Black rebellion.  Everyone pays attention to what’s going on in Alabama and Mississippi just like it’s important.  What’s important is what’s going on right here in the North and in college athletics. 

     You probably haven’t even heard of Black Muslims and this fellow calls himself Malcolm X, have you?  I thought not.  Well, this is sort of a Black secessionist movement.  It will cause trouble whether it succeeds or not.  It was started by a dumb nigger who came from Detroit, lives in Chicago now, called Elijah Muhammed.  He wasn’t going anywhere with his movement until this guy who calls himself Malcolm X got out of prison, went to Detroit where he put life in this movement.  Jerk used to live here in Lansing when he was only Malcolm Little.

    So, these Black Muslims are giving these people bad ideas.  You believe they are better athletes by which I presume you mean that a higher proportion of their population than a commensurate proportion of Whites.  This is nonsense.  They are less capable than Whites on the average but for sociological reasons Black players are allowed to be Hot Dogs where Whites aren’t.  It’s a cultural thing.  White people punish their own Hot Dogs and bring them down.  Witness Hot Rod Hundley and Bob Petit.  They’re going to run Hundley out of the pros and make life miserable for Petit.

     These are both great players in what one might call the Black mold; in other words they are not what Whites call ‘team players.’  They are what Whites call ‘ball hogs.’  In Black basketball the ball hog is a desideratum so long as he sticks it to the Whites, so long as he excels the enemie.  They would rather hot dog than win games.

     White basketball is a set game sort of like a programmed ballet; Black basketball is fluid and flowing sort of like Modern Dance.  The only way Blacks get by is by ‘slippin’ and slidin’, they slip by the guards and slide in.  That’s the way they play basketball they slip through the White set up and glide in.  They reach over the Whites by leaping high and slamming the ball in.  Whites are taught that it is a waste of energy to jump higher than is necessary to tip the ball in.

     With White’s it’s science; with Blacks it’s all show.  I’ll give you an example.  At the free throw line the most accurate way to shoot is from between your knees scooping the ball up and in.  You can sink ninety-eight, ninety-nine percent of your free throws that way.

     Blacks aren’t that smart.  Because Whites do it that way they refuse to, they reject science.  Rather than be successful they’d rather showboat it.  They balance the ball above their heads with one hand and try to lob it in.  Stupid.  They only sink fifty, sixty percent of their free throws wasting forty or more points per hundred.

     White people following the Black example are even dumber.  Even though they know a better way they think Black guys look sharper than they do shooting between the knees so they abandon a more accurate scientific way to look like dumb niggers- pardon me, Negroes, niggers isn’t appropriate in that place.

     In the broader sociological sense that is the problem with the Negro rebellion.  It is precisely because they aren’t as good as Whites that they will undermine the scientific method.  In part it is or, will be, because they can’t understand science but the main problem is that because on average they are less capable than Whites they can only excel by refusing to play by the rules or by by changing the rules faster than Whites can keep up with them.

     In the future even though Blacks make up only ten percent of the population they will make up ninety percent of the athletes, at least in basketball and football.

     This will be done in three ways:  In the first place White guilt will accord them the distinction.  Even though Whites will disallow any notion of natural superiority of intellect they will convince themselves that Blacks are genetically physically superior.

     Secondly, Blacks will change the rules of the game to suit themselves.  Basketball which is now a non-contact sport, but in the process of change, will become a limited contact sport.  If you watch closely Blacks are reaching out and touching opponents to feel which way they are going.  Soon they will hold the opponent in an attempt to direct their motion, holding them back or pushing them in a direction.  Because this is currently against the rules they will make it look lke they’re not doing it.’

     ‘Well, if it’s illegal the refs should call it.’

      ‘Perhaps.  But for sociological reasons they won’t.  If the players were White they would but because they’re Black the Negroes can scream discrimination.  Rather than face up to the Negroes and enforce the rules Whites will cave in.   Thus Whites will be playing one game while the Negroes will be playing another.  since the Negroes are calling the shots for their own benefit the game will favor the Negro style.  Whites will tolearate Negro hotshots, even applaud them, while they will still discourage White ‘exhibitionism.’

     And lastly, through a process of intimidation both on the field and in the locker room they will drive Whites from the sports.  Who needs the trouble?

     When they make the pros the whole balance of power in America will change as Negroes amass great wealth and displace Whites as role models.

     ‘Well, yeah, but don’t you think the Black character is the result of discrimination?  Blacks wouldn’t be that way if they had a fair chance.’

     ‘Do you think so , Son?  That is one of the great American fallacies.  It is caused by the false belief, sincere but no less false, that when an immigrant sets foot on American soil they leave their inbred native characteristics behind.  Nothing could be less true, yet you hear Jews, Italians and Blacks claiming that their more reprehensible aspects are a response to discriminatory American conditions.  At best they adapt their characters to the reality of American democracy which none of them have ever known.  You have to remember that democracy is not part of these peoples national heritage.  They’re like ducks out of water.

     I pity you because you will have to live through the greatest changes this country has ever seen.  You will be stripped of a voice and be rendered defenseless in the name of a perverted concept of democracy.

     I know what you’ve been taught.  Obviously you believe it.  You were taught that the transatlantic trip was so traumatic for Africans that they lost language, customs, habits and the whole works, that they began life over in America with a tabula rasa.  Ha! Ha!  Does anyone really believe that a mind can be swept clean of all developmental influences by a change of location?  Apparently so, because the people who taught you that believe so.

     That’s nonsense.

     If you study any people in their native environment and compare it with their manifestation in America you will find more continuity than discontinuity and that is just as true with Negroes as with anyone else.

     Your time with me is short so let me give a quick example.  You probably think the term ‘mammy’ was developed in the South and means mother.  It wasn’t and doesn’t.  The term ‘mammy’ was brought over from Africa as well as its male counterparts Daddy and Daddyo.’

     Dewey gasped again.

     ‘Yes.  French influence began in earnest in West Africa in the seventeenth century although they had a little known plantation on the South Coast in the thirteenth century.’

     ‘Before the Portuguese got there?’

     ‘Oh yes.  In fact the Normans attempted the conquest of the Canaries in the twelfth century and also visited the South Coast.


     ‘Quite so, as you may learn for yourself if you study.  At any rate the West Africans adopted the French, I may not have the French equivalent just right, ‘ma amie’ to ma’mie’ to ‘mammy’ something like that.  They also referred to important men as Daddy.  They put the exclamatory ‘oh’ behind the word so instead of saying ‘O mamie’ or O Daddy’ they said ‘mammyo’ or Daddyo.’  Over the years in America ‘mammy’ has acquired a derogatory tone so Negroes have substituted ‘mama.’  So rather than have mammys they now have mamas.  But they have misinterpreted the meaning of mammy.  The lesser know Daddy and Daddyo have survived intact from at least the early eighteenth century Africa.

     You think Daddy is a hip fifties expression, don’t you?  Have you ever used the term Daddyo?

      ‘Yeah, I do use it.  You’re right, I thought it was something new.  It’s not, huh?’

     ‘No, it’s not.  As I said it’s an eighteenth century Africanism.  So, that native Negro culture and character was not lost during transportation but continued and continues quite nicely, thank you.  Character trait for character trait can be traced back to African culture.  The way Blacks respond to American culture is merely a transliteration from Africa.  if you compare Negro mores here, which are supposed to be the result of White oppression with current Negro mores in Africa you will find they are quite similar.  Little difference at all in fact.

     But the Negroes blame their own native slothfulness on Whites while Whites are so stupid and bigoted that they accept the responsibility.  Rather an arrogant attitude on the part of the Blacks if you ask me.  Meanwhile Negroes look to Whites to ‘help’ them which means literally to tie their shoes for them.

     Just as Blacks change the rules of the game in basketball so they will change the rules of life in general.  There is no reason for them to play by what they call White rules, rejecting any notion of science they can’t understand, or they are introducing and will introduce degrading ‘natural’ or primitive rules.  The inevitable result will be the degradation of American society.  If the Whites keep the Negroes in their place there might be hope for America but rather than face unpleasant facts the Whites will allow themselves to become negrified and so slip into primitive degradation.  I feel sorry for you, Son.

     In the meantime we have Webster Kirksey there who sincerely cannot understand why he is no longer treated like a star.

     Right now he’s running back and forth between Chicago and the Valley hoping the ‘big mens’ are going to do something for him rather than doing it for himself.  They never will and neither will he.  They’ve already forgotten him for the next big star but he’s not smart enough to realize that.

     Even if he were White there would be nothing for him but to sell real estate or insurance where his ‘name’ would mean something.  That’s what the

‘big fellows’ tell these athletes, they can ‘capitalize’ on their ‘name.’  They say it will make it easy for them to do business with people.  Well, if the White athlete knows the true value of his ‘name’ and applies himself to selling he might succeed but if he relies on his ‘name’ he will surely fail.

     Those options aren’t even open to Kirksey.  Negroes usually don’t maintain insurance policies and Whites control real estate.  No Negroes allowed.  No.  Webster Kirksey’s as good as dead.  Pretty soon if he doesn’t now he’ll start carrying a flask, then he’ll turn to drugs then a few years from now they’ll find him face down in a gutter somewhere.  Look at him.  You can see it in his eyes, the way his body sags.’

     Dewey looked again.  This time he could see it.  It was there in the slump of the shoulders, the slouch of the body, the forlorn expression on his face.

     Dewey’s bus was called over the loudspeaker much to his relief as he was having a hard time ingesting all that Cranston was telling him.

     ‘Well, there’s my bus, I’ve got to go, Mr. Cranston.  It’s been nice talking to you.’

     Cranston chuckled deeply:  ‘I hope I haven’t overloaded you Son but what I have told you is the truth.  It’s a truth the Liberals will never be let known because it conflicts with their prejudices.  Think about it, learn on your own and then carry the torch of truth and freedom as far as you can.’

       Then with that knowing, mocking deep chuckle Lamont Cranston waved goodbye and moved away.

     Dewey heaved a sigh of relief then looking across the concourse at the figure of the forlorn Negro he whispered:  ‘Good luck, Webster Kirksey.’  To himself he sighed:  ‘Good luck, Dewey Trueman.’  And then he thought:  ‘Good luck, Lamont Cranston’ as the bus pulled out into the sunlight for its run across America.

  The End Of Out Of Africa

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