The Public Interest

The story of John Turner

Elijah Anderson

Summer 1992

I MET John Turner (a pseudonym), a twenty-one-year-old black man, a week before Thanksgiving in 1985. It was about two-thirty in the afternoon, and I was in a carry-out restaurant I regularly patronize. I had noticed this person behind the counter, in the kitchen, sweeping the floor, and busing tables, but I had not thought much about him. On this particular day, he stopped me, excused himself, and asked if he might have a word with me. I was surprised, but I said, “Sure.  What do you want to talk about?” As he began relating what was on his mind, I saw that his story was relevant to more general social issues with which I am seriously concerned, and I asked his permission to tape the conversation. He consented.

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