The best word in the American lexicon might be “justice”

The worst? Might be “just”

“See those Black guys hanging out on the corner? They’re up to no good. I just know it

“Those Latinx women in the back of the store? Gonna shoplift. I can just tell”

I’m ashamed to say I’ve done it, too

One long-ago San Francisco afternoon as the sun shone on gaily painted Victorians

My college girlfriend and I drove a narrow turning street, I behind the wheel

We rode to my finely-appointed, paid-for-by-society apartment

A Black woman stepped from the curb, not using the crosswalk, forcing me to tap the brakes

To my deep and utter shame, I called her a “fat n*****”

My shocked girlfriend admonished me

My response to her probably invoked some form of the usual racist theory: that there’s somehow a difference between Black people, and those who “deserve” (in my Mind at the Time) to be labeled with slurs

And it seemed obvious (to me): the woman in the street cheated welfare, etc. 

I just knew it

That small word, just…the finality it carries

The implication of refusal to accept evidence to the contrary

We mistake what we believe, for what we know…

From there working backwards, collecting “evidence” in support of conclusions already drawn

Yes, “just” might well be the worst American word

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