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Dear Reader:

A dad, a mom, and their young son were crossing Michigan Avenue just south of the light in front of the Tribune Tower. It was the kind of crossing people make every day--jaywalking, technically--as they hurry to beat the traffic. But in this case, the mom and the boy (who was about seven years old) lagged behind dad by a couple of steps and a northbound van driven by a black man had to stop to avoid hitting them.

Dad, who wore a gold sportcoat and a burr haircut, took a step toward the van and asked his wife, "Is that nigger trying to hit us?"

He took a second step into Michigan Avenue, waved to the van driver, and shouted, "Hey! Boy!"

The driver got out and shouted back over the roof of his van, "You ever hear of crossing at the light?"

Dad reached into his pocket, taking a third step into Michigan Avenue. He had now ventured out so far that a taxi had to honk and swerve around him.

Dad had a badge.

"Listen, you motherfucking nigger," he began, displaying the badge.

The van driver wasn't intimidated. "I don't care! You ever hear about crossing at the light?"

The dad said, "You are just a motherfucking nigger, boy!"

The van driver countered, "You're nothing but a bald-headed motherfucker!"

Mom and the boy had long since made a beeline for the shrubbery between Tribune Tower and the Equitable Building.

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