The Mystals Are Invited

Years ago, I went to a panel discussion held by Above the Law and sat next to Elie Mystal’s wife. Christine. She was great. Funny, smart, delightful, and far more fun than Elie. Not that Elie isn’t fun. He is. Not only is he one of the funniest guys I know, but comes up with these zingers that just leave me rolling on the floor.

Back when Elie was at ATL, and ATL still had comments, some of the jerks would beat on him mercilessly. He told he was tough enough to take it, but it pissed me off and I said so. I thought enough of Elie that back when I was doing Cross for Fault Lines, he was one of my targets. I liked Elie before it was cool.

And after Elie had kids, I invited Elie and family to come to Casa de SJ for a day of fun, pool, food, perhaps even a beverage with alcohol. He told me he would let me know. But he didn’t. I asked again, and he put me off. Eventually, maybe a year later, he finally told me “no thanks.”

One of Elie issues was that he set himself up to be the “black friend” to white guys, and I assume I was one of the latter. It was a Catch-22 problem, as we were friends, and he was black, and I was white, and short of not being friends, there really wasn’t any way to change the situation. In a sense, I hoped that our being friends before this was a sticking point might mean that I got a pass on the “black friend” problem, but maybe not. Maybe I wasn’t a good enough friend, or maybe I never stood a chance.

Over the past year, I have, of course, still had to interact with white people on Zoom or watch them on television or worry about whether they would succeed in reelecting a white-supremacist president. But white people aren’t in my face all of the time. I can, more or less, only deal with whiteness when I want to. Their cops aren’t hunting me when I drive through my neighborhood; their hang-ups aren’t bothering me (or threatening me) when I’m just trying to do some shopping.

That’s because I haven’t been driving or shopping in person. White people haven’t improved; I’ve just been able to limit my exposure to them. I’ve turned my house into Wakanda: a technically advanced, globally isolated home base from which I can pick and choose when and how often to interact with white people.

Was I being “in his face” when I invited him and the family over to swim? Maybe. Maybe his reluctance was a hint and my persistence was my failure to take it. I’m just used to someone saying yes or no, so I took his “maybe” at face value.

To be clear, it’s not that most or even many of my interactions with white people are “bad”; it’s that I’m able to choose when to expose myself to interactions with potentially bad white people. That choice is a privilege I’ve never really had until this past year.

Elie seems a bit angry these days. Maybe it’s shaking off the post-Trump jitters. Maybe he was always angry but covered it better. But when he’s ready to come out again in the world where people of different skin colors, races, eye shapes, haircuts and body parts are, he’s still invited with the family to Casa de SJ. That choice is still his privilege. I won’t press him again, and I can’t change my race or his so the whole “black friend” gig that he’s no longer willing to suffer could still weigh on his decision.

But Elie, you’re still invited. If you want to, call me. The privilege is all yours, pal. And if not, it’s cool.

16 thoughts on “The Mystals Are Invited

  1. thomas johnson

    This is going to be tough to write because anyone in one of the groups I mention while feel I am unjustly criticizing them for just being “who they are.” My point is that when you let your race, sex preference, religion or political beliefs become an obsession you have joined a cult.

    Unfortunately in my 75 years I have met many people who saw the world thru a tiny prism and it controlled how they viewed almost everything.

    Gays who felt that everyone needed to accept them.

    Jews who relate to 3000+ years of persecution by seeing everything as anti-sematic.

    Gun fanatics who think that laws are to regulate civil society except when it comes to guns.

    And of course, the example you brought up – My blackness prevents me from fitting in, so I will not even try. In fact they will use it as a shield to prevent them from even finding out if someone will accept “me” and not the “black me”. One of my business partners in Washington DC said until he was 25 he hated white people for what they had until he figured out he could have what they had if he tried.

    The politics of today had driven us into two ugly groups unable to overcome our rage. We must do better or it will get much worse.

    1. SHG Post author

      For us olds, the idea was that society should be colorblind, that we should mature beyond race and gender and deal with each other as people. That’s fallen decidedly out of favor these days. To some, that expressly makes one a racist.

  2. B. McLeod

    Admiral, I don’t think you’re supposed to suggest that he enjoys any “privilege.” That’s like the worst kind of in-his-face whiteness that there is.

      1. B. McLeod

        But even with the double Harvey credentials, he is still just a marginalized victim of the white devils. He has explained this many times. It’s dangerous even for him to drive anywhere, or go out walking upon the public infrastructure. He would probably have to do one of those things to get to your pool, and the white devils would presumably go after him, once they had the opportunity.

  3. Pedantic Grammar Police

    I don’t blame him. If I virulently hated a particular race, and constantly proclaimed my hate by writing racist screeds in numerous propaganda outlets describing how stupid and evil that race was and how much I hated them, and then someone who happened to be that race that I hated came sniffing around wanting to be my friend, I would be suspicious too, and I would decline to have anything to do with that person.

    1. David Meyer-Lindenberg

      John McWhorter hit on something with the concept of the Elect. But we still need a name for the religion itself. Electism? Electology? Elie makes me think “Électrú” isn’t far off the mark.

      1. David Meyer-Lindenberg

        You know, I decided one cutesy comment doesn’t cut it. To be clear, black-on-white racism has been nowhere near as destructive in American history as white-on-black racism. But it’s still racism, and it’s despicable. Elie’s either a racist or plays one for the benefit of progressive-media consumers, in which case Ken’s Rule of Goats applies. Your house, your rules – and you’ve hosted some pretty dubious characters there, not least myself, so maybe Elie wouldn’t push the whole hospitality thing too far – but I wouldn’t want him visiting me any more than I’d want a white racist.

        1. SHG Post author

          You went and got all serious on me, so I shall do the same in return. I like Elie, and as much as his writing is a wee bit hyperbolic, I suspect he likes me too. Does he have race issues? Obviously, but his hype nothwithstanding, have a rum and Coke with him and tell me he’s not funny, witty, smart and just a good guy to hang out with. Sometimes, you have to dig beneath the surface to find out that somebody who says some dumb crap is the kind of guy who brings new meaning to Cuba Libre!

  4. Elpey P.

    Audience approval for his rhetoric is probably a good demonstration of Horseshoe Theory. He may even have a cult following among white nationalists with these attitudes.

  5. Joe

    May Elie is just a plain, old-fashioned grumpy ass hole. The old guy in the neighborhood that yells at you to slow down. Maybe race has nothing to do with it.

  6. Drew Conlin

    Interestingly I have heard similar sentiments expressed by some blacks about other blacks after moving out of high crime neighborhoods. Don’t have to be around it anymore.

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