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Thoughts about a fracas on the third floor at Central branch

There was a fight – sort of -- with, perhaps, a few not-too-hard blows exchanged on the third floor of Central branch, yesterday.

The scuffling opponents were an old white man and a middle-aged black man. The white man’s complaint was that the black man had stolen some of his belongings. If the black man had a complaint, I am not aware of it – other than to think that the black man can have felt himself to be fully innocent of any charges from his white opponent.

The two men were scuffling on the floor in front of the librarians’ bullpen when I was nearby, finishing up in making a reservation for a computer.

As the battling men got up off the floor, I stood between them with the palm of a hand directed at each fellow. The foes respected my (faux) show of authority and, just, quietly, glared at each other for a space of time.

A library security man was yelling some things at the men when I suggested that he take my place between the two combatants – which he then did.

The black man backed off to a space on the east side of the librarians’ bullpen. There were, I believe, three young male librarians in the pen at the time -- and, maybe, a young woman, too -- doing their library thing: socializing. The old white guy -- with the security guy behind him, giving him an earful -- walked off to a space near to the #3 computer on the floor.

I am perhaps mistaken, but I believe the security guy was telling the white guy that he was in violation of a punishment already imposed on him of being barred from the library for a period of weeks or months or centuries.

At this point, with little or no context for blurting out what he chose to say, the white man called the black man "the N-word." Not a good thing to say, for sure, but it made for interesting theater. The black guy remained where he had been and was composed. The woman that had been on the #3 computer came over and declared what was said to have been a "hate crime." She also voiced disapproval of the fact that the security guard and white guy were now rolling around on the carpet near her computer that she wanted to use.

The guard and old white guy continued to tussle for a while with the guard seeking to get the old man's arm behind his back before getting him to stand up. When the old guy was standing, he declared that he would get a gun to shoot someone -- the guard was the mentioned target, I believe.

It was not a good day, all around. It took a spell before the woman got control of her #3 computer. The old man was certainly not helping himself to a better future. And the black guy, well, he was disrespected, but was holding up pretty well.

One question I have is "Is it, indeed, a hate crime to call a black man the N-word?" No. It's not, according to a webpage that asks exactly that question. But, as one man, a lawyer, responding to the question said at the webpage, "[It is] immoral and reprehensible."


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