The Truth Board

A Blog by the Editors of
The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009




Recently, I was at Loyola Marymount University briskly walking toward the elevator.  Mid-semester brings with it a significant uptick in deadlines to meet, so I arrived at the door multi-tasking in my mind.  The vator opened. The look on the faces of the two middle-aged white women, and the middle-aged white man with them, made me pause before stepping inside.   It was the look of fear.  Thrice over.  Independently conceived.  Collectively expressed. Unmistakable.


“Hi”, I said, as I smiled and stepped inside.


Hello is my defense mechanism and my Improvised Explosive Device. The word landed on their faces like acid rain which strips away the surface.  Exposing the infrastructure of the human condition.  Our discomfort with difference. 


I wish I could say that this elevator experience was an isolated incident.   An outlier.   I can’t.  It’s  another experience in a long list of elevator interactions that are  troubling and enlightening.


Carrying around a black body in a country where the black body is devalued, despised and desired is a complicated enterprise.  Reproach and approach engage in an illicit embrace.


This embrace is just more pronounced on elevators because of the forced proximity of human bodies.  Behind a closed door. It bespeaks of America’s  historic, messy blend of race and sex.  Bondage and rape.  Miscegenation and profit. 


Black and white bodies occupying the same space at the same time can turn an elevator into a compressed American History lecture between the 1st and 4th floors.


The fear on the faces of my fellow up/down/North/South travelers provides insight into the irrational nature of racism.  On at lease a dozen separate elevators over the last decade, I have boarded and been alone with a white female and witnessed the not so subtle clutching of the purse. The wrapping of the arms around the self. As if robberies happen in elevators as a matter of due course.  As if FBI Most Wanted posters  are taped right over the “down” button.


A few years ago, a middle-aged blond clutched her purse so tight, and looked at me with such distrust, that I was embarrassed for both of us.  I recall being ashamed that I hadn’t said something to her. I remember walking around trying to figure out what I wished I would have said.  I finally settled on:


“You have nothing I want.”


Fear is a  funny thing.  It often tells more about the person doing the fearing than the one being feared.


Michael Datcher



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