Van Jones’s CNN post-election commentary has been many things — blunt, reassuring, and powerful — but on Friday, he told a very succinct but incredibly moving story about the first time he realized that people treated him differently because of his skin color.
The setting was a high school field trip, in which he and his classmates were in a hotel room, “and I was drinking a Coke. Everybody was drinking soda, everybody was laughing.” He briefly exited the room and left his drink unattended, and when he returned, a white girl accidentally grabbed his can, and someone else told her not to go there. Jones thought little of this and drank his soda, but later, the girl began to cry and told him, “They told me later that everybody in the room spat in your Coke while you were outside.” She apologized and felt terrible about the situation.
“I had no clue that whole trip that anybody had anything negative to say or any bad thoughts about me,” Jones explained. “I thought these were my friends.” While speaking to Brooke Baldwin, he explained that no one thinks anything this petty and cruel can happen — especially among acquaintances or friends — but unless you’ve experienced it, “you just don’t know.”