Wherein I Am Embarrassed By and For My Race

I caught a later than usual commuter train tonight and boy, am I sorry I did. I was sitting in a crowded double decker car-- every seat was taken. A black young woman asked me politely if the seat next to me was taken. I said no and she sat down. I read my book. Other people were talking softly or reading the paper or listening to the iPods or on their cell phones. An ordinary, peaceful Friday evening commute, with the sun streaming in and everyone looking forward to the weekend. We’re a mixed bag–young, old, both genders, black and white, Asian and Hispanic.

The (black, young) conductor comes around bellowing (in that way that conductors have) for “Tickets! All tickets, please!”. There is some fumbling around of those who are not regular commuters. There are slots for the upper deck to place their tickets so that the conductor only has to look up and reach up slightly to click their tickets. He does so, making comments and replying to casual remarks by the passengers. I’ve ridden with this conductor before and he’s very nice and gregarious. Nothing is happening.

Until Mr Conductor Man gets to Ridiculous Asshole White Man Passenger. I was sitting less than 10 feet from RAWMP and I know nothing was said or done by MCM. And yet, RAWMP says loudly, “You talking to me?” :rolleyes: “Hey! Hey! Hey–You!” (by now MCM has gone to other passengers and hadn’t realized that RAWMP was addressing him). RAWMP continues on his tirade, claiming that he must have MCM’s badge number etc.

We are all looking at one another, completely flabbergasted. NOTHING happened and yet RAWMP is acting like MCM threatened his life or raped his wife (who is reading the paper and glaring at everyone–but not at MCM). MCM attempts to communicate with RAWMP to no avail and goes out of the car. He comes back shortly with Head Mr Conductor Man who asks RAWMP to come down to talk to him and MCM. They all go into the vestibule to talk, whilst we are all commenting about how nothing was said or done, so why the drama? etc. There is another black passenger in the vestibule (standing room only)-who must have gotten an earful.

HMCM is in our car when he calls for MORE back up–either the commuter line police or a Chicago cop. :eek: Sure enough, at the next station, we stop and there’s a commuter line cop–both MCM and RAWMP get off. Wife stays on, reading the NY Times. Both of them are middle aged, btw–and neither of them looked inebriated or “altered”.

I get to talking to my seat mate about all this when I feel like I’m being watched. We are mildly mocking the RAWMP’s actions aloud, but not loudly, but mostly we are expressing complete confusion over what just occurred. I look up to see RAWMP’s wife glaring at me. I just looked at her with (I hope) an expression of the contempt I felt (and feel) for this nonsense. But here there’s thing: the only people (besides me) who spoke up for MCM (in a general sense of remarks said aloud to the HMCM) were all black. :frowning: I can’t read minds, but the look on RAWMP’s wife’s face was “how dare you not take his side”.
I then hear from that other black passenger in the vestibule (on our way off the train) that RAWMP claims that MCM hit his arm. Um, NO.
Now, no doubt people were tired or just didn’t want to get involved or whatever, but seriously, this was a no brainer. White guy was way out of line–and he never once accused MCM of anything out loud. He just kept saying he wanted his badge and he wanted to report MCM, but never said for what. There can’t be any “what” because nothing happened. Whether it’s customer service or a racial issue (IMO it is both), it comes down to Asshole Passenger Makes Job Difficult for Conductor.

We are a strange species, but this incident really opened my eyes.

Metra, right? I take it every day, and if you’re seated next to the aisle, those aisles are narrow, the ride can be wiggly, and sometimes people get bumped. Shit happens, bitchy dude; if you really did get bumped it can be hard to tell if you’ve bumped someone or a seat. (Pull your arm in while someone’s passing by, already.)

I dunno, maybe the wife felt like she had to defend her husband’s actions even though he was being a douche, and didn’t like people mocking him. At least it’s a better way for her to think than expecting you to defend him because you’re white.

sigh, I wish I could get outraged over this. Tomorrow I will probably be able to. Tonight I’m kind of faded and just a bit melancholy.

Humans are hard-wired to be assholes to anyone they perceive as “outsiders”. I’ve done it myself. Doesn’t make it right, just human.

My only hope, my fleeting hope, is this: Enough people can realize (as I have myself, fleetingly, in my rare better moments) - "Hey, I’m just hating on that guy because (s)he looks and seems different. I need to try to turn down the reptile part of my brain and deal with her (him) as a person. And it’s my problem, not h(er)/(is) that everything in my brain is screaming “OUTSIDER! INVADER! ENEMY!”

We’re all racist, we just have different current social race hierarchies and different levels of “ok, how do I turn down this subconscious race filter and turn up the basic human empathy and intellect.”

Well, I hope you’ll take that embarrassment and send a report to the HMCM about how the MCM was harassed by a a passenger. (Love how you you use acronyms to describe, you know human beings!) Guess it beats being (gasp) hispanic or black!

That report would be mighty white of you.

But, if you don’t feel like channelling that outrage somewhere else besides an anonymous internet message board…

Your whole post is an embarrassment. Wow, white person outraged at some injustice against the colored. How gracious of you!

This is a weird episode, exposing as it seems to an ugly undercurrent common to many of the passengers.

It’s hard to be embarrassed for one’s race, as if all of us within a race speak and act with one mind. If I was going to be embarrassed for my (white) race, rereading “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” or “The White Use of Blacks in America” or “Black Power” or “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” would go pretty near as far as it is possible to go.

Not sure I want to ask, but, Zhen’ka, how is the OP an embarrassment? We all seem to have various threads of ugly through our actions, and I don’t know how we make anything better without thoughtful observation. Isn’t the OP one of the most thoughtful observations you’ve read lately?

It was an unfortunate incident, but I really don’t see why you have anything to be embarrassed about. He was a jerk who happened to be white. It’s not any reflection on you. There’s no white hive mind.

From what you’ve posted, I’m not even sure why you’re assuming that it was a racial issue other than the fact that the complainer was white and the complainee was black.

I think the OP was saying that, despite have all seen the same event, all the black witnesses took the side of the black conductor and all the white witnesses (except for her) took the side of the white passenger.

Of course, you’re 100% right.

Of course you may not realize that we have a long history of imputing racism at every opportunity, especially where it doesn’t exist, or can’t be known.

Which tells us nothing------and that’s still true if we are willing to suspend our disbelief and accept that the OP was fully informed of every passenger’s sentiments----both black and white.

Because that is de facto racism on the Dope. Did you not get the memo?

I was explaining what the OP was saying. I wasn’t there. Neither were you.

It’s true that some people will claim racism when there are other more likely explanations. It’s also true that some people will deny racism as long as there is any other possible explanation.

I agree with you 100%.

You know, I live in Whiteburg, Arianplace, (seriously, in a city of 1,000,000 there are about 15K black people - it’s REALLY white here).

I was on a bus when there was a showdown with the driver and two passengers and it got sort of ugly. Supervisors and security were called. I was the ONLY person on the bus who agreed to make a statement to the supervisor and guess what - we were ALL white (except for an asian lady, I think).

I don’t think not speaking up has anything to do with people being black or white and everything to do with people just not wanting to get involved.

On the other hand, what do I know.

OK, I’ll post the obligatory:

Why are you embarrassed for your entire race for the actions of a single asshole?

I did indeed write both to the commuter newsletter and to TPTB regarding what I saw. I did not include the racial overtones that I saw clearly and also felt. The glare from RAWMP’s wife and the complete lack of any response from any other white person on that car strongly implies that the “sides” drawn on this dispute fall out according to racial lines. I merely reported what I saw, not my inferences, because inference in reports leads to suspicion of bias on the part of the reporter. There is also this: the just the facts reporting is just as damaging to RAWMP.

Note I say strongly implies–as I said in the OP, I am sure that some people just didn’t want to get involved. And there may have been some people in the far end of the car who were oblivious, especially if they had their eyes closed and earbuds in.

You’re new around here, aren’tcha. Acronyms to describe events where names are not known are not only common here; there’s a mild appreciation for those who can create the most succinct and clever ones. Practice at home first if you feel up to the challenge.

I don’t follow your leap of logic re “guess it beats being (gasp) hispanic or black!” It’s Hispanic, not hispanic, btw. And what is “it”? Thank you for the “mighty white of you” comment. It made me laugh out loud.

I was embarrassed for my race on the train. It didn’t last long and from a wider perspective, this incident is a mere nothing. But we all know it is not an isolated incident. I hope that if and when something like this occurs on the train again, that I have the courage to say something specifically to the instigator, instead of just to my seat mate and calling out a general remark. Then again, that may not be wise on my part, since I am female and travel alone. An interesting conundrum.

I would hope that every person on that train felt some twinge of embarrassment, if not shame for allowing a bully to ride roughshod over a service industry person. I feel the same way when people treat wait staff badly and receptionists etc. IMO any decent person would–regardless of race, so in that aspect, this has nothing to do with race at all. But this had a racial aspect to it, given that no one else (white) said anything at all. And that is wrong on so many levels. It’s just wrong.

How do you know racism was involved? Why do the actions of one individual reflect on a particular race so much that you are personally embarrassed? Do you think it tells you anything about that race at all? If so, do the actions of one black man reflect equally poorly on his race? If not, why not? Why not label all blacks as wife murdering assholes? OJ did it, right?

:smiley: You make me laugh. Thanks–I needed that. I have a horrid sinus headache today and I needed something absurd to get my mind off it. Bless you.

Why don’t you answer my questions instead of this ridiculous dodging?

If they are so absurd surely it would be but the work of a moment to demonstrate same, no?

Contrapuntal, you and PlainJain still haven’t figured out what we’re talking about.

The issue wasn’t about the two individuals involved in the argument. It was about the crowd of witnesses who (apparently) divided up along racial lines in how they viewed the incident.

I didn’t bother to answer because you didn’t read my OP or you didn’t comprehend it. Or, what Little Nemo said, but if prefer to see it as ridiculous dodging, that’s your right. Given what the topic is, your remarks are inherently absurd.

If you personally are not embarrassed or made uncomfortable by public scenes and/or response to public scenes racially aligning, that’s your business and you are free to start a thread about.