ACT 1, SCENE 3: “THE TWO AND THE TEN”
Son! Pay attention, now! Listen! Keep your hands on the two o’clock and the ten o’clock! Now, don’t reach for nothing until the officer asks you for it. Have your license ready, and always keep your registration card in the glove compartment, on the top, where you can get to it. And, don’t forget your insurance card! They always try to get you with the insurance. Have that ready too. Just follow the officer’s instructions and answer his questions. And make sure you call him “sir” or “officer.” Understand? Boy, you listening to me?
I got it, Pop! I got it! Two and the ten, license, registration, insurance. I got it! (To audience) It’s 1992. I’m sixteen and about to get my driver’s license. And, outside of girls, it’s the only thing I can think about! So, about a year before this, a man named Rodney King (a video of the 1991 Rodney King beating plays on the projection screen) was beaten almost to death after he was pulled over by Simi Valley police officers, which led to the famous L.A. riots just about one hour from my house. I mean, you could see the smoke from the freeway. (The projection screen fades to black.) But I felt safe in the suburbs of Orange County. There were lots of kids of color in my community. Latino, Asian, South Asian, Pacific Islander, Arab, Persian, you name it. We had it! Only their races were named for geographical locations and languages, while mine was just a color. I was always . . .
“That black kid over there!”“Your hair is so cool! Does it get wet? Can I touch it?”“Dude! Do you rap! Oooh, spit some rhymes for us, bro!”“Oye, mira este mayate. ¡Baila negrito!”“Hey, Mi Dang, you play basketball?”“You like her? Well, you know she doesn’t like black guys, right?”
Being the only black kid in most of my classes and social settings wasn’t all bad. Hip-hop was king, which gave me automatic street cred. (’90s hip-hop music plays and a close-up of sixteen-year-old SONNY is projected onscreen as SONNY dances across the stage.) So I entered the world each day with an impervious armor, fortified by dance and diction lessons from my cousins in South Central L.A.
“Whattup, Cuz!”“Bet!”“Fo’ Sho’!”
My breastplate was a leather medallion with the African continent embroidered onto it in red, black, and green. You know what I mean? My helmet was a prominent, perfectly picked hi-top fade, and I shielded myself from any haters with a black Bart Simpson T-shirt that I got from the Slauson Swap Mall that simply read, “It’s a Black thing, you wouldn’t understand.” (Music stops.) Meanwhile, I took it upon myself to read Alex Haley’s Roots and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. But, still, where I lived, we didn’t talk much about racism or oppression, discrimination or police brutality. That was stuff that used to happen back in the day, you know? My parents had moved here from a mostly black neighborhood in South Central just before I was born. They said they wanted a better life for my brothers and me. (The projection screen fades to black.)