A Fly on Nicholas Kristof’s Wall

(Nicholas Kristof is in his study. He is at work on his New York Times’ column. Calls in his black maid, Betsy. She’s about fifty-five. Slender. Wears church hats on Sunday. Has a son and daughter in college. She and her husband, a parking lot attendant, saved money to send them there. Favorite dessert is sweet potato pie. Her favorite song is “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” sung by Aretha Franklin.)

Kristof: Betsy, would you come in here a minute?

Betsy: (She’s waxing the kitchen floor. Rises. Exasperated.)

What he want now? I bet I know. (Enters his study.) Yes, Mr. Kristof.

Kristof: As you know, Betsy, I have been traveling around the world in my quest to save humanity. Giving my advice to the poor on how they can take responsibility for their actions. As when I told the men in the Congo that they can improve the lives of their wives and children by refraining from whoring, drinking and smoking. For my advice I often get called sanctimonious, haughty and callous.

Betsy: They wrong. You a good man, Mr. Kristof.

Kristof: Today I’ve decided to teach my fellow whites about how to relate to black people. Don’t you think that’s noble? Aren’t they lucky?

Betsy:  (Talking to herself) White people? His hair is nappier than mine.

(Talking to Kristof) I have to finish waxing the kitchen floor Mr. Kristof. Why did you call me?

Kristof: Oh, of course. In my effort to educate white people, I wanted to ask you a question?

Betsy: Here he go again.

Kristof: Do you think that race relations have improved in forty years?

Betsy: (My sister’s son is in prison for possessing one stick of marijuana. My brother’s home was foreclosed. My neighborhood has been taken over by these young white people. They don’t clean up their dogs’ poop. If I tell him what he want to hear, maybe I can get back to work). I think things have definitely improved. Why twenty years ago us maids had to run and catch the sundown bus back home or get arrested. It looked like the Olympics. I’d be all out of breath. Now I can drive my car up here.

Kristof: Thank you Betsy I just have a couple of more questions. Then you can return to your chores.

( Instead of returning to her chores, BETSY sticks her chin out folds her arms and puts her foot down.)

Betsy: Mr. Kristof!

Krisftof: Yes, Betsy.

Betsy: Whenever you write about colored people, you always be saying that your black frins say this and your black frins told you that. Mr. Kristof I’m the black frin you be referring to in your columns. My daughter who is in college say that you and Mr. Roth should pay me a- a- a consultant’s fee. Mr. Roth even made me a character in one of his novels where the man axed the maid’s feelings about Black Studies. I told Mr. Roth that we’d run out of milk. He said that the maid, who was me, said that Black History is like sour milk. I don’t want to have to be like the maid in The Help. The white girl what wrote it kept all the money and didn’t give the colored maid nothin’. I ain’t no fool, Mr. Kristof.

Kristof: Now Betsy. What gave you that idea? Why I’m the friend of minorities. I’m always defending them against Rev. David Brooks who believes that black people are vulgar. He tries to give black people moral lessons too, but he’s a little heavy handed. He doesn’t have my charm. Why…why I even married a minority.

(BETSY removes her apron and gloves puts on her coat and scarf.)

Kristof: Betsy where are you going? You’re supposed to work until five.

Betsy: I’m going to Manhattan. Get me a job with The New York Times.

Kristof: But…but… You didn’t graduate from Harvard.

Ishmael Reed is the publisher of Konch.  He can be reached at IshmaelReed.org.

© 2014 by Ishmael Reed



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Ishmael Reed is the author of The Complete Muhammad Ali.

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