So, I’m all kindsa confused.
On my commute home yesterday, headphones in, music on and minding my business, at the Bowling Green stop five young black men got onto the train in my car. The fact that they were black obviously was not what caught (and held) my attention. It was the amount of disruption they immediately caused to the car of already weary folks.
They were loud. Obnoxiously so. And invasive. Sprawling all over the seats and aisle (with the one sitting next to me funky as all hell; the only thing stinking more than his odor was his mouth). Another was on a hover board (never mind the fact they’re banned from the subways). So as they made their presence felt in the most tiresome and unpleasant ways possible – throwing each other around, cursing and disrespectful of anyone else’s space – a Caucasian man who was standing at the doorway when they came in, moved to another doorway. As he did so, the one who was closest to him called out to him and sarcastically asked, “Yo, you alright?” The man looked at him, and then looked away. This elicited this response from the young man, “Yo, that faggot just rolled his eyes at me yo! Fucking faggot!”
I rolled my eyes. Then, I started praying that their stop in Brooklyn would come soon and prayerfully before any more foolishness starts. After praying, I remember thinking, “See, this is why!” And before any of you decide to pick up where the unpleasantness they started yesterday left off, let’s address this.
As I gathered myself into myself yesterday in my attempt to become invisible to them, I mentally shook my head. I shook my head and wondered whether those fools owned a television? I know they had phones because they were taking pictures of their stellar behaviors and people’s reactions to them. So, I wondered how, in the face of what this nation has been experiencing, five young black vulnerable men could decide to call so much (justifiable) negative attention onto themselves.
No, they did nothing to die over (then); but they certainly did more than enough to be discriminated against (and not just from Caucasians; my ass wanted to move to!), and profiled. Their conduct said they were looking for trouble. And the thing is, if they found what they were looking for and the outcome was similar to what has been happening, there we would go again with the ‘injustices’ against us. I imagined the outcry and outrage should their stories end at the end of a gun… parents and the community up in arms over yet another “senseless” and “unjustified” death. The reality yesterday was, we needed to be protected against them. Their behaviors were invasive, offensive, disrespectful, threatening and vile… and could easily have been deemed dangerous.
I wanted to speak up. I didn’t for only one reason – I didn’t think they would “hear” me. They wore their ignorance like badges of honor. I felt threatened. And, I am still flabbergasted that this is how they chose to behave… this week. So many of us are out here fighting, chanting, praying, believing that, #blacklivesmatter and here they were adding credence to the opposite opinion. Making liars of our words. Making us look like fools. I am all kindsa confused because they made me want to revise to #someblacklivesmatter.
For a brief moment yesterday, I felt I should be ashamed of how and what I was thinking and feeling; then I decided to place the shame right where it belonged… with them. They should be ashamed of the way they behaved and the perceptions and opinions they crystallized in all of us on that car. The collective sighs of relief we all expelled when they got off at President Street spoke volumes of the tension, discomfort and vulnerability we all felt. I remember looking into the face of the woman sitting across from me and seeing a lot of what I was feeling and thinking reflected there.
So yes, our law enforcement needs to be trained on how to defuse situations in an effort to save and not waste any more of our lives. If they cannot be appropriately trained, they need to be relieved of their authority, badges, uniforms and guns. Clearly more frequent psyche evaluations are needed.
But, we need to do more than hash-tag, protest and be outraged. We need to police ourselves. We need to hold ourselves and each other accountable for the impressions we formulate. We need to do our part in keeping ourselves not only safe, but alive. (Again, I am not saying these young men yesterday did anything on that subway car worth dying for; but I am saying that their aggression could have been easily interpreted as such).
The nation is on edge. Fingers are on triggers. Tempers are short. Nerves are shot. Accountability needs to flow both ways.
I felt terrorized. And, I am a black woman. #mylifematters