Are You Wearing a Mask?

Guest Writer: R. L. Norman  

       We ran down the dirt road to the little store to buy candy. It was me, my little brother and my cousin. My grandfather had given us each a dollar. He made us promise not to tell my grandmother because she would have said it would spoil our dinner. 

     We ran as fast as we could because we wanted to get back in time to see my grandfather feed the hogs & chickens and milk the cows. It’s one of those things that farmers did in South Carolina in the year 1967.

      At the age of seven, I got a kick out of spending the summer with my grandparents because growing up in New Jersey, we didn’t have hogs, pigs, and cows. So, this was a whole new world for me. My parents grew up here on the farm and wanted us to live our roots so to speak.

     We entered the store and searched the candy aisle trying to decide what to buy. Eventually, my brother bought a box of Cracker Jacks. My cousin brought Now or Laters. And I purchased a box of Good and Plenty. These were popular candies during that time. And we decided to share with each other.

     As we ran out of the store, I bumped into a man that was coming in.

     “Watch where you’re going ni**er,” the irate man yelled at me.

     I stood there frozen with fear as I stared at this white man looking down at me. Not just because of the way he said it but because of what he said. I have never experienced anyone calling me a nigger to my face.

     We ran back to the farm as fast as we could, and I told my grandfather what had happened. He was not surprised at all, as he explained the mentality of south people in the south. He explained that some people do not wear a mask to hide behind.

     That’s because, in New Jersey, the prejudice people would wear a mask to hide the fact that they were bigots. They would never show their true colors like this man did.

     And that incident reminded me of Halloween. When I was a kid, we looked forward to wearing a costume and a mask. It was our way of becoming someone else for the day. We would dress up as cowboys, Indians, ballerinas, and angels. We even dressed up as Batman and Superman fighting the bad guys. We lived in out fantasy world as kids and our reward was candy. Lots and lots of candy.

     And that’s all it was: costumes, masks, and candy.

     And as time went on, people became more tolerant and understanding of different races, cultures, etc. Slowly people starting mingling together. socializing, dating and even marrying each other. Racism was slowly kept behind closed doors. There was no need for masks.

     But now it’s the year 2017 and it appears that people are slowly taking off their masks. Racism is slowly becoming the norm. People are slowly showing their prejudice right out in the open.

     In Oklahoma, a white woman police officer shot an unarmed black man who had his hands above his head. She said she feared for her life which is why she killed him. She was found not guilty of murder. But some believed she is guilty of racism. She wasn’t wearing a mask as she shot that man.

     In St. Louis, a black police officer was killed when he ran out of his house to help a fellow white officer chase carjackers. That white officer was found not guilty due to friendly fire. The white officer was not wearing his mask to hide his racism.

     At the University of Maryland, a black man was accused of spraying swastikas on garbage cans. He thought he got away with it until the cops arrested him while he was not wearing his mask of hate.

     In D.C., nooses were found hanging at an elementary school, a college campus and at the African American Museum. Racist people wanted us to go back to the days of hanging blacks. They probably were not wearing their hoods when they did it.

     In Walmart, a white cashier would not touch any money received by any person of color. Instead, she would make the customer put the money on the counter and return any change the same way; being careful not to touch their skin. She was fired because she took off her mask of bigotry.

     And in Las Vegas, a white man booked a hotel room and shot numerous people thru the window. He didn’t care what color they were. When they finally caught him, he had killed himself and was not wearing his mask of hatred.

     And on the other side of the world, people are blowing themselves up as suicide bombers just to kill others who think differently from them.

     Every day, someone is taking off their mask and showing their true colors. The color of hatred. The color of bigotry. The color of down-right stupidity.

     Are we slowly going back in time?  Back to the days of slavery when it was obvious that white people hated black people? Like it was obvious that that white man hated me for being black. Or that some people hated Jews and burned them in human ovens. Or people hated the so-called red-skinned Indians who had different beliefs.

     Today people have forgotten to wear a mask to hide their bigotry. The racist people are slowly taking off their mask and showing how divided this world is.

     It is amazing how people judge each other just by the color of their skin, religious belief or something as simple as someone choosing not to stand for something they do not believe it such as the national anthem.

     Should we hate people because their skin is darker or lighter than our own? Should we hate because someone prays to Jesus instead of Allah?  Or should we hate because someone does not stand up for something that they do not believe in? Instead deciding to kneel.

     It’s time we think about what is really important in life–unity, understanding, and tolerance of others. The world is slowly taking off their mask and showing who they truly are. What they truly believe in. Is this a good thing?

     On the one hand, we will know exactly what people are standing up for. Therefore, we would know what to expect. But on the other hand, wearing a mask might be the best way to keep the peace in this world of hated, senseless killings and downright craziness. If everyone kept their mask on, maybe there would be more peace because everyone would be hiding.

     But now it’s about to be Halloween. Will everyone put on their mask and hide? On will it be a day when we take off the mask and show the world our real selves. Because what’s the point? It appears no one is dressing up anymore. The true man is slowly being revealed.

     What do you stand for? Are you wearing a mask? Or are you going to kneel down for something you don’t believe in? Or stand up and decry bigotry and hatred?

R. L. Norman is a writer, performer and author of the popular series of novels entitled, “Honey Let Me Tell You.” The fourth and latest installment is “Love Is Complicated.”  The sequel will be available soon.  As well, he performs“Norman’s One Night Stand,” a one-man show he conceived and wrote, showcasing the main character of his series. R. L. also is writing a play based on “Honey Let Me Tell You.”  All of these endeavors are part of the production company he’s forming.  You may reach R. L. at his on line home,; by email at:; on Facebook at RL NORMAN; on Twitter, @rl_norman; and on Instagram:rlnorman1.