As I was sitting at a long table one day, I encountered a young black man with a chip on his shoulder regarding slavery who was talking, nay, preaching to one of my friends. I hate coming into the middle of a conversation, especially one this heated, but if there was one thing I was in no mood for it was a blathering racist going unanswered while I ate lunch.
"...so you white people owe us," I heard as I set down my plate.
"Owe you for what?" I asked, as I sat down by my blindsided friend.
"When were you a slave?" I asked, thinking he looked mighty young for a freed American slave.
"My ancestors were," he stated as if I must be the dumbest person on earth.
"And I'm responsible how?" I requested, having a good idea of where he was going.
"It was the white people who owned them."
"So my ancestors owned your ancestors, you're saying?" I offered, needing to make sure we were on the same page before I barreled deeper into the middle of a conversation of which I had missed the beginning.
"When did your ancestors come over from Italy?" I queried, curious exactly how he was sure my ancestors owned his.
"Italy. The big country on the Mediterranean. Shaped like a boot."
"They didn't, they came from Africa."
"Then you've got the wrong guy. My great grandparents came here from Italy in the 1920s, long after your slave ancestors were freed."
He spent a bit trying to come up with a response for this, and I've had similar conversations more than once, and I have yet to run into anyone who could sufficiently explain how my Italian immigrant great grandparents who came over around 1927 were responsible for slavery that ended over sixty years before they set foot in the western hemisphere.