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I Was Doing Okay Until That Guy Hit Me With An Ax Handle

March 4, 2014

CK? You’re moving a little slow this morning.

Yeah, I’m just really sore.

Come on. We’ve played what, two games? And you’re already sore? You’re more out of shape than I thought!

Well, I was doing okay until that guy hit me in the ribs with an ax handle.

Say what?

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We were working at Microsoft. I was the captain of an intramural basketball team. CK was my 6’5″ power forward. He’d played college ball at Villanova. He was also my coworker answering phones about Microsoft Mail. And he was my best friend.

Oh yeah, and he happened to be black. That becomes important later in the story.

Microsoft is located in Redmond, WA. Redmond is one of the wealthiest cities in America. Microsoft created thousands of millionairs and a few billionaires. Redmond didn’t really have a “bad section” of town. But, Redmond shared a border with Bellevue which had some rough parts and just across Lake Washington was Seattle, a city that I love, but which has places there is no way I’m going into.

CK explained his cracked ribs. It was a lesson in human nature, self defense and more than a little bit of racism.

Well I was in White Center a couple days ago. Probably ten o’clock at night. I stopped at an ATM. As I turned around there were three of them. All three white kids. I thought, “this is not good.” If they had just asked me for the money, I would have handed over the $5. But, as I tried to turn away, this one kid hit me in the ribs with an ax handle.

CK grew up in LA. This was not his first fight.

Rodney, if you ever get into a fight, especially if you are outnumbered, make that first punch count. As he hit me, I wrapped my left arm around the handle and pinned it to my body. Then, I pulled him in and hit him in the nose as hard as I could. It broke his nose. He was now out of the fight. I turned to the other two as one of them rushed me. When the cops showed up I had him in a headlock. The third kid wanted nothing to do with the large angry black man.

Wow. I had no idea. So, what did the cops say?

Say? Nothing! A big black guy beating up on three little white kids? They arrested me, of course.


Yeah. I only spent a couple hours in jail though. The kids all had records.

But, you went to jail for getting mugged by three white kids?

Welcome to my world, buddy!

I’ve thought a lot about that story over the years. CK is one of the nicest, smartest guys I know. And yet, it’s still hard for me to envision the victim of a mugging getting arrested.

We talked about what would have happened if it had been me getting robbed and the three muggers had been black kids.

No question, the kids would have been arrested and the cops would have given you a ride back to your apartment.

Doesn’t that bother you?

It sure bothers me.

Microsoft, where we both worked at the time was very merit based. The smartest and brightest got promoted regardless of race or gender. I grew up in a high school that was 90% white. But, I also spent two years in South Chicago working with deaf people. I worked daily in black neighborhoods.

One time my missionary companion and I were joking with some black teenagers. They asked us,

Where y’all live?

We live over on 35th and Halsted. Bridgeport area.

Oh man, we don’t go around Bridgeport!

Why not? I mean, we come HERE.

That’s different. You’re white. You’ve got the law on your side.

The kids were right. I expected to run into that kind of institutional racism in South Chicago. I didn’t expect to hear about it while sitting in expensive offices in Redmond, WA. It was surprising to me, but I worked really hard to understand it.

After all, two of my sons are black.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children, seven of whom are black.

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