Sometimes, things just hit you like a brick.
I was out with a friend for dinner after work. We said bye, and I hopped on another subway line to head back home.
Two white men were arguing when I got on. I was listening to music so I didn’t hear much, though I assume it was pretty heated from their gesturing. After a couple stops, one of the two got off.
At this point, I decided to stand at the other end of the train, which was a bit closer to the remaining white guy. I don’t know why I moved.
When I got there, I noticed the remaining white guy was standing behind me. I stepped away, and realized the white guy wanted to argue with the black guy I inadvertently stood in front of. The black guy stood up and the two men stared at each other like predators, waiting for someone to make a move. This lasted a couple of bus stops alongside threats from both sides.
The white guy’s stop came up, and as he left, he casually threw out, “You don’t belong in this country”, and walked out the door.
I haven’t been exposed to much real racism as a kid, so this was pretty crazy. I’m lucky that my generation subscribes to the more subtle do-not-show-your-racism mentality.
The train started moving again, and no one else spoke a word.
As I stood there, I watched the black guy as he sat down. He put both his hands together and brought them to his mouth like he was thinking. His face was tense and frowning. His eyes were looking left and right as though he were processing what just transpired. Heck, I was still processing what just happened and it wasn’t even directed at me.
The subway car passed another station when I opened my mouth.
“Sorry, I’m having trouble processing what that guy said. Did he just go, ‘You don’t belong in this country’?”
“Hahahahahaha”, I laughed quite loud and whole-heartedly.
Then, we laughed together.
“Well, if it’s any help, I think you belong in this country more than he does.”
And he smiled.
I noticed an available seat further away and sat down.
When it was time for his stop, he waved that kind of wave that guys do to acknowledge someone. I waved back, and he left.
As I’m writing now, I feel the same happiness that I felt when we laughed and when he said thanks. The power of the act really hit me hard when I realized how drastically his attitude changed because of my actions. Making someone feel happy had never felt like this before. It was eye-opening. It felt great.
There’s something completely broken about the world when crimes like this occur and no one stands up. We are all human, and it’s depressing that we even have to reaffirm this truth to others.
Stand up and speak up against racism. Make someone’s day. At the very least, it’ll make your day.