Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Apostles singing in Pike Place Market.

This is an old story. Six years ago a member of a Seattle street gospel singing group called The Apostles was murdered, and they finally put a suspect on trial last October. A reporter covering the story played part of the trial scene for droll comedy.

At one point, the testimony took a turn into the finer points of swear words, when [the prosecutor] Lee grilled [the suspect] Lyons on why he called [the murder victim] Brown an epithet invoking mothers.

"That's a term of endearment?" Lee asked.

"Explain to me, 'term of endearment,' " Lyons retorted. He added he wasn't "angry" at Brown, just "kinda pissed."

What word do you use when you're angry at someone, Lee asked.

"Bitches," Brown finally replied.
-- "Trial in Gospel singer's slaying nears end: Many twists in case of police informant killed five years ago," Seattle Post-Intelligencer

I have seen The Apostles, a fine group of rotating members, many times. I was acquainted with some of the members, from my work years ago in homeless shelters -- at least some of the singers had been homeless. The murder victim smoked crack. The murderer was a dealer, and the only witness against him was a crack addict.

Horrible story.

And there's the prosecutor trying to trip the accused with standard prosecutorial aggression -- which is, after all, part of the job.

The scene's apparent drollery depends on people being surprised about something that happens to be true: “motherfucker” can indeed be a term of endearment, at least sometimes, among black people.

I wrote the following 3 years ago but never posted, because I wanted to hold it until Christmas time, and then forgot about it.

August 2005.

“Move your bike, motherfucker,” said the adolescent black guy as I bicycled past a bus stop seconds ahead of his bus on the way to work this morning.

Punk kid, I thought at first.

Then I remembered: “Motherfucker” can be a term of endearment among African American men, at least older ones.

A friend who grew up in Detroit tells a story of Mayor Coleman Young going to Hawaii on vacation, getting off the plane, and greeting waiting reporters with a friendly, “Aloha, motherfuckers!”

In a long profile of George Clinton from back in the '90s, Robert Christgau quoted the funky Parliamentarian describing himself as a “lazy motherfucker.”

Five years ago or so, shortly before Christmas, I was sitting in a park in an African American neighborhood in Seattle, when I heard from behind me two 50 or 60-ish men greet each other with enormous warmth.

“Merry Christmas, motherfucker!”

“Merry Christmas, motherfucker!”

And they gave each other a hug and gabbed for several minutes.

The adolescent this morning didn't have a friendly tone, but I still hear that “Merry Christmas” echoing in my mind's ear.

Obviously, "motherfucker" isn't always a term of endearment.

* * *

I lost track of the trial and just looked up the outcome: Lyons was sentenced to 39 years in prison last November.

Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?