“Jamaal? Jamaal Black?” the Hispanic receptionist called out, looking over her glasses at a clipboard at the sea of people waiting for court-ordered therapy sessions.
A tall white man in his 40’s stood up, dressed in a white polo shirt and light brown khaki pants. His canvas deck shoes squeaked as he cautiously approached her, so as not to alarm her.
“Yo miss,” he said. “I’m Jamaal.”
“You making fun of me?” The receptionist looked at the white middle-aged man, straight out of central casting. He couldn’t have been any whiter.
“Nah, miss. It ain’t like that.” Jamaal held up his hands in an unnecessary gesture of goodwill.
“Because I can send you right back to court if you are going to be a problem,” she spat.
“I think we're about to have a problem!” an attractive black woman stood up suddenly, marching right next to the white man, putting her finger in the receptionist’s face. “I am Karen White. My husband and I are here with our children for our session. By my watch, it is fifteen minutes past our appointed time.”
“I am sorry for the wait, Ms. White,” the receptionist said, smiling. “Please go through this door down to Conference Room #7."
Karen White sailed through the door, followed closely behind by her children and Jamaal Black, who had shoved his hands deep down into his pockets.
The family waited around the conference table. Finally, the door opened. An elderly Indian man entered, carrying a thick manila file with BLACK, JAMAAL written in black ink on the tab.
“Hello, family. I am Doctor Shawn FitzPatrick O’Flanagan,” he introduced himself, flipping through Jamaal’s records. “Apparently, Jamaal needs just three more sessions to regain custody of his children because of the incident.”
“Three is too many!” Karen interjected. “My husband is the victim here. Why is he always targeted?”
“I assure you, Mrs. White, we will address all your concerns through his anger management counseling. Until then, let’s all remain calm. Mr. Black, can you tell me about the circumstances that led to your arrest?”
“It’s embarrassing, ” Jamaal responded sheepishly. “Do we have to do this in front of the children?”
“Ah yes, the children. Perfect segue,” Dr. O'Flanagan said with a smile. He then turned to the older daughter. “Can you tell me about yourself?”
“That's fantastic, this is a safe space. You’ll find no judgement here.”
“No, I’m straight, you idiot. My name is Gaye. Gaye Black-White.”
“So are you Gaye Black or Gaye White?” Dr. O'Flanagan quizzed her.
“I’m Black-White,” Gaye responded in a huff, rolling her eyes almost audibly. “But I identify as Chinese. Why is that so hard for people to understand?”
“What box you check on a form shouldn’t be important,” Karen interrupted, “I refuse to choose a race. I believe a race chooses you.”
"Karen always checks the box marked 'other' on those forms," Gaye added, in obvious support of her mother.
“Let me get this straight,” Dr. O'Flanagan said, obviously struggling to keep up. “The children have the surname White-Black, but your biological daughter is Chinese?”
“Yes, is that a problem?” Jamaal asked while also trying to remain calm. “And she is very good at math, but a terrible driver. What are you getting at?”
“I’m just trying to understand,” said Dr. O'Flanagan, cleaning his spectacles. He pushed the button on the intercom and told the Hispanic receptionist to cancel his afternoon appointments. This was going to take a little while.
“And who are you, young man?” the doctor asked, turning towards the White-Black’s youngest son.
“I’m Gray. Gray White-Black. But I’m not a young man. I’m an old soul in a meat locker of bone and blood. And I reject your hetero-normative labeling.”
“Don’t listen to him.” Gaye chimed in. “He thinks he’s asexual, but to me he’ll always be my brother from an other mother."
“I feel we are deviating from the task at hand. You realize your father has had an incident with law enforcement. After considering many options, the judge has decided the typical consequences are not appropriate.”
“Who are you calling inappropriate?” yelled Karen. “I will call a half dozen lawyers to take down this facility brick by brick.”
“I’m certain you c-can,” stuttered Dr. O'Flanagan. “May I get you a bottle of water?”
“Don’t patronize me,” Karen replied, crossing her arms.
“I apologize for misspeaking, but Jamaal, would you recount in your own words, what happened last February?”
“Well, we were celebrating Black History Month at Red Lobster when I realized I had left my wallet at home. I stubbed out my menthol cigarette at the bar, and we raced home when the FIVE OH pulled us over.”
“What was the initial charge?”
“The cop said our tail light was out, and he gave us a warning.”
“So,” the doctor paused, consulting his notes. “Why did you hit the police officer?”
“Because he was biased.”
“My wife was driving,” he added.
“EXACTLY,” Karen chimed in.
“You see, doc, when I was not more than ten or eleven, my dad took me and my brother aside and gave us the talk.”
“The talk?” Dr O’Flannigan responded, more confused than ever.
“Yeah, the talk,” replied Jamaal. “My dad’s family was a bunch of assholes. They were always causing a ruckus and making a stink. The Black name became synonymous with hooliganism. The cops would pull us over just for being Blacks.”
“Wait, you are saying you, a white male, would get pulled over for driving while Black?”
“Word, doc. Hey get it: Word Doc. Better micro hard than micro soft, right doc?” Jamaal said, cracking himself up. “But seriously, that's why my wife always drives.”
“So you punched the cop because he let your wife go. Is that it?”
“Correct,” Jamaal Black said.
“But that doesn’t make any sense. How is that biased?”
“If you must know,” Karen interrupted, “my father was chief of police for thirty-seven years.”
“Well, I could practically run over a baby in a carriage, and I’d get away with a warning because of my last name: White.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. Your husband hit the cop because, as a black woman, you were a recipient of White privilege?”
“Your damn fucking right he did. And he’d do it again.”
Dr. O'Flanagan rubbed his eyes and muttered, “Imeacht gan teacht ort.”
“Excuse me?” Karen and Jamaal said simultaneously, ready to be offended.
“It’s an Irish expression,” Dr. O’Flanagan replied.
“I thought you were Indian,” Jamaal said.
“I identify as leprechaun.”
“Well erin go bragh-less doc,” Jamaal said with a chuckle. “Glad to see you being your authentic self. Screw the Italians! Amiright?”
“Well you’re right about one thing,” Dr. O’Flanagan agreed as he signed the documents, handing them to Jamaal. “You don’t need to come back for any more sessions. Now get the hell out of here and never come back.”
“Suit yourself, Lucky Charms. Let’s roll, White-Blacks!”
When they had safely left the building, Dr. O’Flanagan closed his pad, put in for two weeks' vacation, and poured himself a Guinness.