White Like Me

A close shave with skinheads.

I didn't feel super cool. I felt sphincter-puckered.

I switched to the "14 words," a white-power motto that Nazi skinheads know by heart, which I had memorized in case I was asked to recite it: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

Still repeating myself, I pulled into the motel parking lot. The skinheads came over to my truck, which was borrowed from a friend, and told me to turn on the CD player. I thought that was pretty crafty: They wanted to find out what kind of music I had in there. Luckily, for the past two days I'd been listening nonstop to a white-power heavy-metal band called Beserker, getting down the lyrics and riffs so that I could carry on a conversation about my favorite hate-rock band.

Now the guttural roar of Beserker's lead vocalist singing the praises of the Aryan master race blasted from the speakers. I thought to myself, "I'm pulling this off."

Then one of the skinheads looked beneath the passenger seat.

I'd given my borrowed vehicle's interior a cursory inspection, checking for incriminating evidence. I'd taken down the yin-yang amulet dangling from the mirror, but I hadn't looked beneath the seats.

"What's this?" the skinhead demanded. He was holding up an Ani DiFranco CD.

A siren went off in my brain, followed by one overpowering realization: "I'm a dead man."

I stammered something stupid about it being my buddy's truck and how his girlfriend's younger sister was a hippie chick and she must have left it in there. I sounded like a high school kid trying to tell his mom that the bag of pot she found in his sock drawer was just something he was holding for a friend.

"Go ahead, throw it down and stomp it," I said.

"That's all right," the skin replied. He laid the disc down on the seat. "Is she white?"

"What?" I asked.

"Your friend's girlfriend's sister. Is she white?"

"Yeah, definitely. She's white."

"Then you should try and talk to her, get her to be more aware. Maybe you should bring her to the show tonight."

I said I'd do that. He gave me a hotline number to call a few hours later for directions to the festival. I left, riding a sweet adrenaline high east on I-70 until I looked at the gas gauge and noticed it was on empty. Past empty, in fact. About-to-run-out-of-gas empty. I pulled off the freeway at the next exit, which landed me at a convenience store at about 40th and York. Let's just say they don't get a lot of white guys dressed up like Nazi skinheads in that part of town.

As I filled the tank, I was hit with hard stares from all sides. I didn't know what else to do, so I smiled and waved, turning in circles, trying my damnedest to look like the goofiest white boy in the world.

It was no problem.

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