Tuesday, October 27, 2009

City Bus Culture

I was riding the bus yesterday and had an interesting experience.

There is a certain culture on the city bus. Those of you who ride the bus know what I'm referring to. I will explain a little about my perspective on City Bus Culture- because as an enthusiastic person, it was a little hard to get used to. When I get on the bus I say hello to the driver, to be respectful and recognize their responsibility in driving a lot of "personalities" around the city. I then proceed to not look around, except to find a seat, sit down, and mind my own business. I am almost always a racial minority on the bus compared to the rest of the bus population- which is totally cool with me, but something to note. I sometimes read, or just sit there because it is too loud to read. I sometimes pretend to read if a "personality" chooses me to talk to. I have learned that if you are too nice on the bus, you will unwillingly make friends with people you really don't want to be friends with. I happen to ride the bus that goes between Mpls to St. Paul and a lot of interesting people ride this bus.

So, what happened yesterday? I was conducting my scan of seats, toward the back of the bus as it is most efficient to take a seat there first, so those behind me can get a seat too. The only seats were next to men who were obviously taking up two seats and didn't want to share their space, so I turned around to take a seat closer to the front of the bus. I had to excuse myself by a man with luggage to do this. The woman adjacent to him, said (I think to luggage man) "girl don't wanna sit by the niggas" (imagine a little attitude in the inflection.) I was shocked. I've never gotten that type of comment before. I was immediately angered and that fueled a comeback from me. I looked directly at her and said "that is NOT the reason I'm not sitting back there, I would have to sit waaay to close to someone, there's no room." Then I turned around, and fumed. She replied "I don't wanna sit by the niggas neither." I just minded my business after that.

This was interesting for me though. As a really white person who is middle class I usually don't experience things like this. I won't know what her motivation was for saying that, it doesn't really matter. What I didn't want was anyone perceiving me as racist. It is really important to me that I do my part against racism, I think that's why I reacted so strongly. Was it a good thing for me to react like that? Does my "bus cred" matter? I'm not sure.

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