Chapter Four – Passage Nine
“Bitches! The both of you! Shut up and listen.” Katherine slams her hands down against the cafeteria folding table and leaps to her feet. Some of the broth in my half-eaten Korean hotpot slops out of its clay bowl. Coleman and I both just look up at her, surprised.
Katherine points her finger at me. “You’re rich, white, and male. None of those traits are specifically your fault, per se. But they disqualify you from having a voice in this conversation. If that seems unfair, tough. Welcome to the club. About time you got a taste of the feeling, anyway.”
“But I haven’t said–“
“Shut up! You get to just sit there and be silent. That’s your sole prerogative at the moment.”
I open my mouth. And then close it again. I decide to just sit quietly. The woman’s got a mean, death stare going and looks like she’s in full-throttle rage mode.
Katherine then turns to Coleman and points her finger at him.
“And you need to stop whining about ‘unfairness’ and ‘discrimination’– look around you! Do you see plantations anywhere? Legions of black slaves plowing the fields and working cotton gins? Do you?”
“No! You do not! Because we’re in China. In the year 2045! Whatever nonsense you faced back home in that dysfunctional dumpster fire you call a country doesn’t apply here! Why are you even wasting our lives right now talking about this? It’s neither the place nor time. You know what’s unfair? On my Meemaw’s side, we’re Ashkenazi Jews. As a small girl she was marched across Poland, on foot, at gunpoint. And then she saw her siblings and parents tossed into human ovens and incinerated alive. All while the rest of the ‘civilized world’ sat idly by, twiddling their thumbs, doing nothing.
“But all these grievances,” Katherine continues, “as legit as they may be, have nothing to do with anything here. We are here in China now. Not the 1940s. And certainly, not back in 1619 or 1776 or whenever. We’re here. In China. Now.
“So the only thing that really matters, at this moment right here, is what we do in the present and future. If you reach back far enough, you can always find that someone’s ancestor wronged someone else’s. That’s a merry-go-round that just goes and goes and goes.”
Katherine looks at the rest of us, her voice a little softer. “Guys, I think we have a chance here to do something meaningful. And besides, like Shu said, if we don’t do it, you know they’re just going to bring in another team who’ll run the project. But it can be us. We could really make a difference here. It’s a real opportunity. What do you all say?”