- Racial Equity
- Talk About Race
He thinks upon it often, at home while he watches Dancing with the Stars; over a spaghetti dinner between sips of Chardonnay; amidst a medley of Beatle’s songs during a misty morning shower; while squat on the toilet, reading the Metamorphosis, feeling bug-like himself: how sometimes, words and thoughts and actions come out unexpectedly and surprisingly, without any kind of preparation, process, purpose. And how, often, they are not very nice thoughts and actions.
Sometimes it is a random thought, a quick judgment. At the grocery store: that girl was an ignorant moron! Sometimes it comes out in action: to sit, not by the old lady with her cane and groceries, but beside the blonde with cute shoes at a lecture on the topic of homosexuality in Hemingway‘s literature. In other activities that just happen: letting the door close abruptly behind you because the guy who‘s creeping up rubs you the wrong way; being upset when people take forever at Starbucks because they can’t speak English; laughing at a cyclist as he is forced to ride through a deep puddle of cold water.
I think all of us find ourselves in such a moment at some point in time; words are extracted from our mouths by some unknown force; actions performed which upon a later reflection are regrettable, prompt one to think of one’s own goodness and morality. Moments that are in and of themselves out-of-body experiences because, oftentimes, a thought or action is said or done and later we question ourselves, Did I really say that. Do that?
We constantly tell ourselves to be better human beings but sometimes we just can’t stop ourselves – it just vomits out of our mouths uncontrollably, takes over our bodies as if we were possessed by Baptist snake charmers.
Liam experiences one of these moments on a Friday evening. He leaves work early excited for a weekend of utter debauchery (making a puzzle while drinking a few beers during the game) and makes his way onto the bus. Alan, the goateed bus driver, nods him in without checking his pass. Alan rarely takes his eyes off the road and can time departure to match the precise moment Liam settles into a relaxed standing position. Liam has his headphones on and makes sure the volume is low enough so that no one can hear.
His bus, the number two, moves from downtown up to the North. The trip is a plain and simple routine: beginning in the city, then onto the swanky professional district, on through to the sprawling campus, and into the Old North, where Liam lives. The bus demographic at the beginning of his ride home from work is typically diverse, an eclectic selection of race, class, height, hair color, beard lengths, clothing styles, etc.
He checks his phone, changes the song on his iPod (Jay-Z – Girls, Girls Girls), takes a look around: there is the large woman in front of him; an interracial teenage couple with book bags and sneakers; a few men in suits with coffees in hand; a group of Latino men speaking a flurry of Spanish; an Asian woman with her child who has a violin next to him; an elderly African-American man in the seat behind him, across from the larger woman. This man captures Liam’s attention, for some reason. He has a grizzly white beard, is tall and lanky, wearing a vest, flip-flops on his feet. A beret on his balding head and a worn look. Liam thinks; how do homeless people pay for the bus? most likely, he can’t find a job because he’s been to jail; wonder how many baby mama’s he has; wonder if he graduated high school; wonder if he voted last year, or if he even can vote; oh and i bet he smokes drugs, and drinks cheap 40s. and I bet he smells.
Then, all of a sudden, Alan has uncharacteristically taken his eyes off the road for a moment to watch some pigeons fly in a figure 8 above the coffee-shop. When his eyes return to the road, he has to slam on the brakes to avoid a pedestrian. That sends Liam a-flying, embarrassingly attempting to grab onto anything he can but failing miserably. When he finally gathers himself, Liam makes his way back to his once stable position. Liam looks around and notices that the old man is staring at him with a giant smile on his face.
Continued in Part 2
Author: Kirwan Institute (427 Articles)