On Being Crazy
by WEB Du Bois
It was one o'clock and I was hungry. I walked into a restaurant, seated myself, and reached for the bill of fare. My table companion rose.
"Sir," said he, "do you wish to force your company on those who do not want you?"
No, said I, I wish to eat. "
Are you aware, sir, that this is social equality?"
Nothing of the sort, sir, it is hunger, and I ate.
I beg pardon, I said.
"Do you enjoy being where you are not wanted?" she asked coldly.
Oh, no, I said. "Well, you are not wanted here"
I was surprised. I fear you are mistaken, I said, I certainly want the music, and I like to think the music wants me to listen to it.
"Usher," said the lady, "this is social equality." "No madame," said the usher, "this is the second movement of Beethoven's fifth symphony."
"What do you want?"
Rest, I said.
"This is a white hotel," he said.
I looked around. Such a color scheme requires a great deal of cleaning, I said, but I don't know that I object.
"We object," he said.
Then why, I began, but he interrupted.
"We don't keep niggers," he said, "we don't want social equality." Neither do I, I replied gently, I want a bed.
"Can't sell you one." I only want to hire it, said I, for a couple of nights.
"Can't sell you a sleeper in Texas," he maintained. "They consider that social equality."
I call it barbarism, I said, and I think I'll walk.
So is the mud, said I. Moreover, I am not as dirty as you -- yet.
"But you're a nigger, ain't you?" he asked.
My grandfather was so called.
"Well then!" he answered triumphantly.
Do you live in the South? I persisted pleasantly.
"Sure," he growled, "and starve there."
I think you and the Negroes should get together and vote out starvation.
"We don't let them vote."
We? Why not? I said in surprise.
"Niggers are too ignorant to vote."
But, I said, I am not so ignorant as you.
"But you're a nigger." Yes, I'm certainly what you mean by that.
"Well then!" he returned, with that curiously inconsequential not of triumph. "Moreover," he said, "I do not want my sister to marry a nigger."
I had not even seen his sister, so I merely murmured, let her say no.
"By God, you shan't marry her, even if she said yes."
But--but I don't want to marry her, I answered, a little perturbed at the personal turn.
"Why not!" he yelled, angrier than ever.
Because I am already married and I rather like my wife.
"Is she a nigger?" he asked suspiciously.
Well, I said again, her grandmother was called that.
"Well, then!" he shouted in that oddly illogical way.
I gave up.
Go on, I said, either you are crazy or I am.
"We both are, " he said as he trotted along in the mud.
|1. Why is this story called "On being Crazy"? At the end, the Black man says to the White man walking opposite him, "Either you are crazy or I am." What does the white man mean when he replies, we both are"?
2. What makes this story ironic? What mood is created by the Black man's attitude or tone? The White man sees himself as very different from the Black man. What are these differences? Why do they seem humorous?