It has finally happened – my involvement in an altercation on the subway. Sigh.
Yesterday, after running (yes; in my 4 inches) and barely skating onto the A-train heading home, I realized as soon as the door closed, that I was on a car in the throes of an altercation. Great! So, instead of going deeper into the car, I eased my way back closer to the door and away from the fracas. Then, I took one side of my headphones out of my ear, to ascertain exactly what this particular madness was about.
Apparently, young man B was mad because he insisted that young man A had not said “excuse me” when attempting to move his way onto the train. By the time I tuned in, the “N-word” was being flung about; coupled with the challenges to “let’s get it poppin’”. Sigh. See now, the thing is that man A was approximately seventeen years old; while B was approximately twenty-eight/thirty years old. Oh…and A? Well, he rose (or sunk; depending on your perspective) to the challenge to “pop”, announced that he was “going to jail tonight” and squared a stance squarely in the face of B; taunting him. What do you think happened? Older and, according to A, “pussy” B did nothing! Well, except curse, fling the derogatory slurs around and invite A to “get off at my stop Nigga” – scheduling a fight. Sigh.
This back and forth went on from Fulton Street in Manhattan, to High Street in Brooklyn. At that stop, I finally had enough – of them, the fucking idiot at my job – anyone, everyone whose behavior needs to be checked; or even prosecuted! I turned my music off, took the other bud out of my ear, put my phone into my pocket…and opened my mouth: “Enough!” I yelled. “I am a black woman; so I would appreciate if you would refrain from flinging that word around”. The entire car now turns to me. I am directing my conversation to stupid-man B. “What word?” the idiot says. “The N-word” I clearly retort. And, because he was now committed to confirming his ignorance, he says, “I am African; so I can say whatever I want. You can’t tell me what the fuck to say!” I exhaled. I have never heard an A-train this quiet; all eyes on me. I smile. I look him directly in his eyes and I enunciate, “I cannot fight. I will not “get it poppin’”; so how about you work on and improve your vocabulary so that eventually this can be a worthy fight”. Oh shit! Who said that?!? My little corner of the car erupted; I got cheers, high fives, thumbs ups and, the man next to me gave me a ‘pound’ J . Young man A gave me a grateful smile and, our tax dollars at work, miraculously at the next stop, there were the cops, telling B that that was his stop.
I realized as I put my music back on and in, that I was shaking. The entire interaction, both theirs and mine, was unpleasant. Seeing the anger and disrespect that these two young men had for each other…for no more reason than a supposed slight, was enlightening and sad. Accepting where they were willing to take it was frightening. It was this reality that propelled me to step in. It was too early, too much and too stupid! I remember watching them and thinking about all the ire we have for the (white) police who kill our so–called brothers and sisters and yet here they were, two young black men, threatening each other and courting death! I remember being so very fed-up with the hypocrisy! Enough! It would be one thing if the ones (in my opinion) who truly deserve it are the ones that end up hurt or killed; but in a subway car full of passengers, it’s us, the innocents, that pay the price! I just had enough!
So, I opened my mouth. I opened my mouth and I fought my way. And, I will continue to do so. I am now truly fed-up; there is just too much injustice everywhere – in homes, in offices, in schools, in churches, in the streets – everywhere. As a society, we are becoming too comfortable being human beings with sub-standard standards. Like I told that idiot – I cannot do “street”; but I sure can speak – so that is where I will take my fight… Enough!