I remember his face. I was on the Boulevard St Michel...Buying some more Rolling Stones records, Gary?
… on a student demonstration. A posh-looking man sitting in a restaurant near the window looked up at the protestors and sneered. I'd seen that look before. I'd been studying in Paris for a few months by then. I'd seen it on the faces of the cops who had beaten me up in the metro and those who stopped and questioned me almost daily, or the landlords whose available flats disappeared when I showed up. It was a look that told me I didn't matter and couldn't do a thing about it.My, isn’t it amazing how some people can read so much into a look?
On the Boulevard St Michel a young black kid also saw the sneer, walked coolly up to the window, and kicked it in. And between the shards, the face of the man at the table contorted in fear as the thin film that separated him from chaos collapsed. The kid walked off laughing.
I can't tell you why he did it. You could not justify it strategically or morally. What I can tell you is, at that precise moment, given the few options available, it felt like an appropriate response.
Yes, it’s always appropriate to treat a supposed look of contempt with physical violence, I suppose.
So I guess we’ll not hear any squeals from Gary when the next cop gives some sneering, tooth-sucking gangsta-wannabe the back of his hand.
* With abject apologies to Peter Sarstedt