- Racial Equity
- Talk About Race
Continuation of Part 1 …
Hours before Alan would nearly run over that student running across the street, before the slam of breaks, before Liam would topple over, much before the bus would reach equilibrium and return to a balance again, Alan sat at breakfast and ate a bowl of cereal. Then a call from his excited mother revealed to him that he had just become an uncle.
So, when Alan was distracted by the pigeons which were flying in a figure 8 above the coffee-shop, he wasn’t so much concerned with the birds themselves, but with the hope that his nephew would someday see something as beautiful, too. For since that call, all Alan could think about was a little boy whose eyes would barely be open, whose blood and DNA had a part of Alan himself in it.
Some thoughts Alan had during his day: (1) how lame is it that his uncle is a bus driver? (2) what will this little child think about Barack Obama someday?(3) i hope he likes baseball. (4) i will buy him a guitar for his 4th birthday. (5) i hope he likes fishing, too.
Alan watched Mister Roger’s Neighborhood in the morning, and thought of that baby nephew, Ryan. While driving to work, listening to the Beatles, Alan couldn’t wait to dance to She Loves Me with the baby someday. Found a clip on youtube of his favorite childhood television memory: Muppets on a tropical island performing a rousing rendition of Kokomo, by the Beach Boys, and couldn’t wait for the day Ryan would sing along with him, we’ll get there fast then we’ll take it slow.
Later, when preparing the bus for the day, picking up trash from the seats and aisles, the candy wrappers and old newspapers, Alan had a great smile on his face. He found a matchbox car, a fancy one with flame decals. He put it in his pocket thinking that he would give it to a young Ryan as a gift.
On the bus after the slam of breaks, Alan says sorry to everyone. At the next stop he finds some time to relax a bit as a large group of students dressed in fancy outfits file on, each having to pay for their once-in-awhile bus ride.
All in a few minutes, while the students file in, Alan witnesses a beautiful thing. An event which makes him think of his little nephew, again.
Liam moves back and repositions himself right next to Ron, the elderly African-American man with the giant smile that Alan has known ever since he started driving this particular bus route 15 years ago. And Alan also notices that the trash bag he had stored earlier on top of the racks is gone.
In the flurry of commotion and motion which occurred a few moments earlier, the trash bag removed itself from the top of the rack and nestled itself right between Liam’s two feet.
Alan could only watch from the back, and cringe a bit, as he read Liam’s lips direct a question to Ron, “Excuse me sir, is this yours?”
Oh, Alan thinks, chuckling to himself, of course that’s not his. Ron isn’t homeless, he doesn’t carry around a bag of trash.
Alan watches Ron’s smile disappear; watches as Ron crosses his arms and looks down at his toes poking out of his flip-flops.
Alan tries to keep up with the conversation:
“No. That is not my bag, son,” Ron states without looking at him.
“Oh… I’m sorry. I assumed it was …”
“Son. Really? You think I carry a bag of trash around with me?”
And yes, it is quite a mistake for Liam to make. Alan stops thinking it is funny because he knows that Ron is a very sensitive guy, and worked hard in life for a lot of things, and is a very very proud, strong, Black man. Alan could tell he was upset. And a bit sad.
All the students are on the bus now so Alan begins departure. He takes a look back at Ron and Liam; they are not looking at each other.
Surely it is a common mistake. It is a happening that occurs often. Alan sees it all the time. Maybe, usually, it’s not as explicit as the handing of a bag of trash to a man who looks only somewhat grungy, but definitely Alan has witnessed the sneers, the quiet whispers behind the back, the laughter at the expense of others, the unwarranted anger – all directed to normal folk who simply have more to worry about than looking good, but whose appearance may nonetheless trigger a thought like these damn homeless people everywhere!
After a few bus stops, Alan has absorbed himself into thoughts of his nephew, again. Questions of how to raise a child in this world, how to get a child to question. To question who or what someone is before making judgments, before projecting something onto another human. How to avert and avoid such incidents, such common mistakes, as the one Liam made?
Liam’s stop. Typically he is one of only three individuals who get off at the stop. But, Liam does not get up and exit. In fact, he sits with Ron, talking.
“Hey Liam!! This is your stop!” Alan exclaims from the front of the bus.
“Hey Alan! It’s okay – keep going a bit, I’ll get off in a few stops.”
So the bus continues on for a bit while Alan thinks how great it is that Liam and Ron are talking. How it is a very good thing that Liam wants to get to know the man. That, although Liam made an unintended mistake by thinking that Ron was a homeless man (just because he was a Black man dressed poorly), Liam was making up for it by getting to know Ron.
So Ron no longer has his arms crossed; no longer is he hurt or sad; no, more so engaged and excited to talk to Liam about playing jazz guitar, and cooking soul food, and working in construction, and much more about life in general. And Ron is smiling and Liam is missing his bus stop to keep this killer conversation going. And Alan is extremely hopeful for the little baby he has never seen but loves dearly, optimistic that his nephew will be able to have such moments like Liam had; to learn from mistakes, to make up for instant judgments, to truly remember that everyone is a human – that we all make mistakes; but also, that we all have the possibility to change.
Author: Kirwan Institute (427 Articles)