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.