A couple of weeks ago, I was on a crowded BART train. There was a young black teenager sitting in a seat and had his foot on another seat listening to music through his headphones.
An older white man, my assumption was this man was minimally 50 years or older, entered the train and sat on the young man’s foot with intention.
The teenager had an immediate reaction. Below is the dialogue that followed.
“Whoa….what are you doing?”
“I want to sit down and you’re taking up two seats”
“Well you should ask”
“Fine, let me sit down”
“No, because you are being disrespectful”
“That’s not the way it works AND that’s why I voted for Trump”
He said this while laughing and walked a couple of steps away.
The young man, becoming more aware of the crowded train, got up from his seat and offered both seats to two nearby women.
For the next, two minutes, the older man, repeatedly and in a teasing tone said to the teenager, “That’s why I voted for Trump”
The young man took slow breathes.
I watched on and then we arrived at the next stop. Both myself and teenager exited the train.
I got off the train, hesitated about saying something of comfort to the teenager, but the hesitation caused me my opportunity.
Its been two weeks, and I keep playing the scene in my head. On a crowded train, a teenager/a child was being attacked by a nasty old man and no one did anything, including myself.
My heart has been so heavy since and filled with regret. In this small interaction, we (society) demonstrated to this black child that he was in fact, alone. That it was okay for an adult to attack him for being black and young. That no one cared and that black lives really don’t matter.
My deepest apologies to the young man on the train. You deserve to sit on a train and listen to music carefree. You deserve to be treated with respect, even if it’s a gentle request to remove your feet from the seat so others can sit. Even more you deserve to be protected by society when others try to hurt you, even if they are using words as their weapon.