Saturday, February 20, 2010

Another Fight On The Bus

Public transportation is a microcosm for racial tension in America. Seriously, every time I procrastinate with YouTube there's a new video with some showdown between the races.

For those of you who remember my [previous post], the picture above is taken from that incident on SFTMA involving an Asian lady. This time, it's Black vs. White.

Let me contextualize this.

So, the white guy walks on the bus, and the black guy makes a comment about his shoes. Something having to do with why "a brother" has to shine them. The white guy mishears this and assumes the black guy was offering to clean his shoes. When he asks how much he charges, the black guy gets pissed. As the argument devolves into posturing and threats, the white guy moves to the front of the bus while the black guy stays in the back of the bus. Finally, the black guy gets so angry that he can't let it go, despite many people telling him to just leave it alone. He walks up to the white guy and is about to put his hands on him --whether to push, hit or hold, we can't tell -- and the white guy jumps from his seat as he begins to pummel the black guy, who falls to the floor, bleeding, and seemingly in a daze. The white guy starts yelling, leaves, and then the video drags a little with the reactions of the people before the camera-person turns it off.

Here's my favorite response to the incident:

Surprisingly, I thought the black guy was in his 30's, not 50's! (This must be another case of what my girlfriend calls, "black don't crack".) And another funny-but-sad thing was that the white guy looked like some POS with his fanny-pack and baby-blue t-shirt saying, "I AM A MOTHERFUCKER".

But let's get back to the racial issues prevalent in this encounter. Is this racism?

Was the white guy displaying racist stereotypes by assuming the black guy wanted to shine his shoes? Or did he just mishear him?

Was the black guy being defensive and projecting his own fears onto others? Could he have been overreacting to simple miscommunication?

How come the white man just left the scene so quickly and nobody stopped him? Wasn't this assault? Was it self-defense? How come nobody intervened to stop the white man from continuing to hit the black guy after he went down?

Also, why is it that in the dialogue of this incident we always refer to the two men by their race? Would it seem strange to call the white guy "fanny dude" and the black guy "cornrows"? Is our perception of the people in this scene completely defined by race due to the extreme difference of Black & White? Can we see the two men as individuals instead of representatives for their respective races?

I feel that situations like this spark a lot of questions that can't always be answered straight-forward. The prevalence of overt or subtle racism is hard to distinguish in what is essentially a communication breakdown.

Maybe that's the real problem then. Not ignorance, not prejudice, not even fear, but the inability to communicate, the inability to work shit out via talking.

Hope I gave ya'll a lot to think about. I know I do.


0 footnotes: