This is America

America

Every time I fly out of Austin, I park my car in the extended lot, it’s not too expensive (yet). Parking at this spot requires me to ride on a shuttle to and from the airport. Now, I travel enough to notice, that unless I sit next to someone or a person of color sits next to me, a white person never sits next to me on the bus ride back. I have noticed this for 3 years. On the way into the airport, I may have had a handful sit next to me, but on the flight home and shuttle bus back to my car, a white person never sits next to me. Every single time they take every other seat available, even by some questionable people, before they dare sit next to me. But I have had enough experiences to let this roll off my back until a trip back from Kentucky after my favorite Uncle’s funeral just two months ago. It was late, and I was tired, and dealing with my uncle’s funeral was draining emotionally. As I got on the shuttle, I sat in my usual seat, and it began to fill in. All but one seat was available, that seat was next to me or so we thought. The driver was about to close the door when another person jumped on the bus, a middle aged white man, got on and put his stuff up. I told myself, he’s going to stand. The only clear seat available was next to me. The bus driver pointed in my direction, and told him that he had to have a seat. And the next thing that happened was completely unexpected.

An older, white-haired man was covering two seats and it was hardly noticeable, but this man found it. He made the older gentleman quite uncomfortable and sat next to him and another lady, and was squeezed very tightly. Then I felt a number of people’s eyes on me. Especially, the old white man who was completely uncomfortable. I couldn’t tell if his eyes were supposed to comfort me, if he was ashamed, or if he had the same thoughts as the man who refused to sit next to me, that he wouldn’t come sit next to me either. I like to think that his look was of regret that he didn’t choose to come sit next to me in the first place. I luckily was the first stop and got off the bus quickly, and I walked to my car, threw my luggage inside, and I began to weep.

That even when I am tired, I mean I was really tired, and sad, and all of the things I was going through with family members and the bullshit at work that at that very moment, I had to be reminded that I am black and there are people who think less of me, who are afraid of me, who’d rather be uncomfortable than sit next to me. This is my life as a black person in America. This is my life as a black person in one of the most “liberal” places in America. No matter if it’s a good day or a bad day, these experiences happen regularly for no good reason. I know that life isn’t fair, but if we can talk about struggles with our weight and body issues or other insecurities that to some extent we might have control over, but I can’t talk about this. Then we might as well be living in 1776.

I wish that the white people who are in power, who are at the table and have the money to make decisions that affect my black life can be like the white people I know and love, like my best friend, and the best two roommates I have ever had, my favorite teacher, my favorite mentor besides my mother and my Aunts. I wonder why can’t all white people look through their lens, and see me as a human being.

I am sure there will be someone reading this and think maybe he sat there, because it was closer. That it couldn’t be about race. You have been conditioned, as have I, by the ills of this country that I cannot talk about my race too much. Even though, because I live in America, I am often forced to think about it almost every day. But you know what…. I have decided to not feel sorry about it. I’ve been wanting to share this story even though it makes me angry, and it would make me even angrier that people might not understand or misinterpret my purpose and meaning. I’ve decided that I do not care.

Because I will remind you, this happens, every single time I ride this bus. It is not a one time deal. It isn’t a coincidence. This my friends is America.

Wake up and realize it.

Unfortunately, the only person who has is running for President of America.

M/P

5 responses to “This is America

  1. Thank you for sharing your story! Definitely mind blowing that most still don’t understand the problem going on in our nation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One thing for sure, America has not changed enough, just found more sophisticated forms and excuses for not accepting Black people. In other words they still do not like us, period. That’s enough cause I could go on and on!!!

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  3. This is a reminder of the unsettling truth that is indeed America–so not the land of the free. It’s people like the man you encountered and the many others on your trips back that make it hard for us to open our hearts to “others”. There is good in every one, but many aren’t willing to open their eyes to experience this reality. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s unfortunate it continues to happen.

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  4. Doris Ann Norris, the 2000-year-old librarian

    As Caucasian person, I just don’t understand those who would back away or avoid you. When I was young, I lived in a small town with a large Black and Latino population. I went to a Catholic school so there were plenty of people of Mexican descent. (We called them “Mexican” back in the ’40s and called Black people “Negroes” with no hint of it being a put down. We knew the other “N” word and knew it was bad. Bad enough that we would have gotten our mouths washed out with soap had we used it.) But I had seen plenty of Blacks in town, but was so excited when the public and parochial schools all went to a movie together. I was excited and deliberately sat next to a Black girl because I always wanted to meet a Person of Color. I love to sit next to someone in an airport or public transportation who is different from me, but is yet my sister or brother. All those people don’t know what they were missing by not sitting and sharing with an intelligent human being. We do learn from each other and from a colorful world.

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