Monday, July 11, 2016

My Bus Ride Home

Monday, July 11, 2016

Yesterday I recounted some of my day this past Saturday. Here is the conclusion of that day's story:

The last leg of my journey home featured me riding the 19 Bus. And ever since I heard of this small child dying in gunfire I have felt heightened anxiety about taking certain buses.

I boarded the bus to discover a police officer in the very back. And then came the thoughts of what happened in Dallas, of police being murdered, of the issues we have with police-community relations in this nation, of our history of racism and so on. My very first thought when I saw the police officer was "Oh good, there's a police officer on the bus. Now I feel more safe." I am sure others on the bus didn't necessarily feel the same way. And for the record the officer appeared to be African American.

I sat and pondered my initial thought. And I appreciated how I really do try to give people the benefit of the doubt as much as possible - I *want* to trust people but sometimes it is very difficult for me.

The bus had a more subdued quality about it than I expect it would have had if there had been no police officer on the bus. At least that was the case until a woman boarded who, after sitting down in the back, began to say "F--- you, f--- your momma" and so on. I could feel my eyes rolling and some anger building inside me as all of us in the bus were a captive audience to this woman's use of foul language. I managed to distract myself by breathing deeply and thinking thoughts of gratitude for my safety.

We eventually passed the intersection where that two year old child died just this past Friday. And there was a collection of people gathered in solidarity regarding the violent death of this small child. I couldn't clearly see the people gathered through the tinting of the bus windows. But as we passed through the intersection my tears were rising again. What planet is this again?

As my bus neared my destination I thought about thanking the police officer in the back of the bus. I thought about saying something I felt would be innocuous like "Thank you for your service". I hesitated and ultimately said nothing. Why? Because other thoughts crowded my mind. Would the other passengers on the bus, a vast majority of whom were African American, feel I was effectively saying "Thank you for giving me a feeling of safety among these people whom I think are violent and untrustworthy"? I could feel the stain of what racism has done to our nation both in the past and in the present moment. I wanted to express gratitude and feared it would be misconstrued. So I said nothing.

After getting off the bus I noticed a Metro Transit police vehicle was directly behind the bus I had just disembarked from. More thoughts passed through my mind such as "Was the vehicle an escort for the bus I was on?" I felt the crushing weight of what I imagine it feels like to be an African American in certain neighborhoods in this country. If you can't expect your two year old child to survive when you are raising that child what are you to do? What can impoverished, disenfranchised people do when they are caught in the crossfire of people whose apparent first resort is the harm that so often comes with the use of a gun?

And that, my dear friends, is life in America. That, my friends, is but one story of how our failure to understand and love one another diminishes US ALL.

Let's come together rather than tear each other apart. Please for the sake of future generations let's become the best version of ourselves we can be.

I am devastated. I want to go to sleep and sleep a whole day.

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