So I'm on my way to meet friends for Margaritas. I pull up to the restaurant. In front of me was a truck. I was talking on my cell while driving, but I couldn't help but notice the word printed on the truck's license plate.
The guy pulls to the curb, parks, and gets out. I pull up behind him, and park. Our restaurants were opposite each other. He was a big, white-haired white guy that looked like he was still pissed about The Civil War. A friend of his came out to greet him, and they talked for a minute. The friend walks back in, and the guy in the truck lingers, taking stuff out of his truck (it looked like he was changing his shoes or something).
I almost - almost - left it alone and went about my business.
But, I couldn't help it.
"Excuse me," I asked.
"Yes, sir?" he replied.
I told him I noticed his license plate and was wondering what it meant.
"Oh. My name is Sam," he said, "And growing up, people called me Sambo, and they called me that as an adult and it just stuck."
Me: "Oh. Just curious. Because to black folks Sambo means something totally different, and I was just wondering."
He laughed. "Oh, no. I get that a lot. Trust me. There's nothing pejorative meant in the name on the plate. That's just my nickname."
Ok, just curious, I said. "Thanks."
"Take care," he said.
To be fair, he seemed like a genuine guy, so I can only take him for his word. But, this is Texas. You don't know what you're going to run into at any given moment. Even in major cities like H-town, big, racist mutherfuckers are everywhere, waiting for their chance to show their shit. Maybe a confident black man questioning a big white guy was not a good idea. I suppose I could have gotten my ass kicked (he was a big mofo) or gotten my head blown off by one of the myriad guns I assumed he kept in the back of his truck.
But, I didn't give a damn. I wanted to know. Had the right to ask. After all: we won the war.