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The Engine Of Racism

, , , , , , | Related | May 9, 2019

(My uncle’s car of twenty years was going through a major rough patch; it required a week-long trip to a mechanic almost monthly. This raised a few alarm bells since a car that left a mechanic shouldn’t need another a month later. Before he brought it back again, I convinced him to let my mechanic — who happens to be one of my oldest friends, us having been best friends since we were four — take a look. Naturally, this involves getting his hands and a few tools inside. After reminding him the two of us know almost nothing about cars, he gives us his professional opinion.)

Friend: “To fix your car, I’d have to replace part or all of the engine. That’s already pretty pricey, but to get at certain parts of the engine, I’d have to pull apart the car’s frame. Since that complicates the job and makes more work, the cost of fixing her would be enough to buy two cars. And that’s before we add on fees for the rental car you’ll need in the months she’ll be on the lift. If you don’t fix it, it’s worth more as parts than as a car. I say you should trade her in for a new car and not spend one more penny on her.”

Uncle: “Do you mind if I talk to my mechanic first? Just to hear him out?”

Friend: “You can, but could I come along? Just to ask a few questions you guys might not know to ask?”

(After a little cajoling from me, my uncle agrees, and the three of us drive up the highway to his dealership, each in our own car due to schedules conflicting. I’m going to take this opportunity to repeat that I know almost nothing about cars, so the technical parts of the conversation sound like a trombone to me. The comprehensible parts are as follows:)

Mechanic: “Nothing too bad. It’ll be ready tomorrow afternoon. Job’s more annoying than it is hard.”

Friend: “What about his [car part]?”

Mechanic: “Used, but not worn out.”

Friend: “And how exactly did you check that?”

Mechanic: “Same way as any other. [Outlines a complicated-sounding procedure].”

Friend: “And what were the results?”

Uncle: “He said he checked it and it’s fine!”

Me: “I think [Friend] wa–“

Uncle: “It’s fine!

(This basic conversation loop a few more times, each time detailing a different part of the car. Eventually, my friend throws up his hands and walks out. Once he is gone, the mechanic continues talking with my uncle, and I completely tune them out. When I rejoin, my uncle has decided to trust his mechanic and leaves his car for another day of repairs, which turns into a week of repairs. But the story doesn’t quite end there. Since he doesn’t yet know he’ll need a rental car, I have to drive him home, which means taking the highway. And he opens his mouth.)

Uncle: “I shouldn’t have listened to you!”

Me: “What was wrong with involving [Friend]?”

Uncle: “All he did was get in the way! He wouldn’t listen one bit to my mechanic!”

Me: “He wanted to analyze the exact results himself, not just hear, ‘It’s fine.'”

Uncle: “Well, [Mechanic] told me that [Friend] poking around might have damaged something, so I might not have a car tomorrow.”

Me: “[Friend] is a more competent mechanic than that. Any problems weren’t his doing. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn he saved you some money by tightening up a few things.”

Uncle: *scoffs* “And you’re trusting the [racial slur]!”

(For the record, yes, my friend is black, and we are white. I pull over the car and hit the brakes.)

Me: “Trusting the what?”

Uncle: “The… the…”

Me: “Get out!”

(He tried to backpedal some more, but I wasn’t having it. I grabbed my keys, got out myself, and physically pulled him out of my car. I got back in and drove off, leaving him to walk back along the highway. He made his way back unmolested, but not one bit wiser.)

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