Posts Tagged ‘Fear’

I step into the subway car.
A young man with headphones enters the doors to my left and sits just down the way across the aisle. Other than the two of us and a couple of loose tabloid sheets the car is empty.
I sit down and pull out my cell phone to text my daughter whom I’m meeting in a couple of stops to continue uptown for lunch.
“I never did figure out which is least”
Darn autocorrect.
“last”
We had arranged to meet on the last car of the train but I, being basically a Kansas tourist and unfamiliar with the ways of New York trains, wasn’t sure I could tell which end was front when I couldn’t see a big red engine car. As it turned out I could.
“Think I’m on it”
As I reach to put my phone back in to my pocket a man and a boy, maybe 12 or 13, enters at the other end of the car. The man is talking loudly, not an unusual event in New York City. I try to ignore him. He amps up his “talking”.
“Son, let me tell you about the niggers!”
“My heart is beating. I know this because I hear it. I feel it. I am aware of it.
What seconds ago was simply a ride to a pleasant luncheon outing with my daughter, son-in-law and infant grandson has suddenly turned into a risk assessment. Is this loud-mouthed bigot likely to harm me? I casually glance at earphone guy who is between me and the loud mouth and he seems oblivious to what is being said.
Not wanting to give the speaker any satisfaction of knowing I hear him and not wanting to be the cause of a physical confrontation I surreptitiously look toward the man. The old man, probably actually only 60 or 50 even, hocks up a giant white ball of spit, opens the doors between the cars and spews it out. The boy seems disinterested in what the man is saying.
The train, which has been sitting at the station, starts moving toward our destination. I decide the man poses no immediate physical threat.
He gets louder.
“Come here my boy. You’re too far away. Sit over here. I want to tell you about the fuckin’ Jews.”
At this I flat-out look up. The boy was sitting across the doorway from the man but got up and moved to the seat across the aisle upon the man’s command. He still seemed unmoved by the man’s words; almost resigned.
It’s obviously a show. The boy is right there.
The man shouts.
“The fuckin’ Jews are dirty!
“The fuckin’ Jews are shifty!”
About now I’m wondering how Mr. Loudmouth would react to knowing he’d offended both groups in my one little package. Would he be pleased?
I think about confronting him but what would I say?
“Hi, I’m a Fuckin’ Nigger Jew, please quiet down you’re offending me?”
He goes on and on about the Niggers and the Jews as I reach my stop and I casually get up to exit. I will not let him know that he has made me uncomfortable.
I gently guide my family away from the doors saying we can’t stay on this car. We move to a more amiable compartment where they smile at babies and largely stay silent.
I go on about my business and he about his.
To New Yorkers maybe this is just a case of one disturbed person in a city full of them; a minor incident not worth even registering. To me it’s an example of the minefields I may have to negotiate anytime I leave my home, no matter the city.
Some White people – not all or maybe even most – want to believe that this could be one big happy country if Black people would stop trying to make everything about race. Why do Black people always have to make it about race?
We don’t. We wish we could stop looking over our shoulders, wondering whether some guy means to harm us. Whether the guy trying so hard to impress someone on a train is going to whip out a weapon or something to back up his ignorance. It would be nice to believe that bigotry doesn’t exist anymore in America. It would be nice to be the young, White guy with the headphones who can share the same car with the raging bigot and remain clueless and unaffected. But if you’re the African-American woman riding in that car, if you’re me, it’s not that easy. As a Black woman I cannot ignore the words of crazed White men around me because history and recent events tell me that I could be attacked and I might not be able to count on anyone around me — including the authorities — to come to my aid.
As much as I’d like to believe that the world is a wonderful safe place where everyone loves me or, at the very least, tolerates my presence, it seems there is always someone waiting there to remind me that we haven’t yet reached that racial Utopia so many White folks want to believe in.