Apparently, the place I am going to learn the most about the city and the distinct perspectives of different people in the city will be through the Mass Transit. I thought I had experienced everything the bus had to offer, its sights, sounds and smells. I was gravely mistaken. Not only did I experience one of the most uncomfortable events since my arrival in DC, but I must admit that it was one of the most beneficial also.
Let me set this up for you. Dustin, my roommate, and I were returning from an outing with the WJC crew on a Thursday night, Feb 1st. Another ironic detail is that we were coming home from a private showing of the soon to be released film (Feb. 23) Amazing Grace, which is the story of the abolition movement through Britain from the perspective of the main character William Wilberforce.
On the last leg of our trip home, Dustin and I decided to board a bus we do not normally ride but would deliver us just as close to home because our normal bus had not arrived at the station yet. Shortly after Dustin and I boarded the bus, a trio of gentlemen climbed on and sat down close to us in the back of the bus. It was a very cold night. So, two of the gentlemen were wearing spandex ski masks, and all of them had the subtle presence of alcohol on them.
Dustin and I weren't talking very much. So, I began to read Monster, a novel by Frank Peretti, and declined to pay close attention to my surroundings. However, the trio soon became rather boisterous. Naturally, I stopped reading but continued to stare at the book as I eavesdropped on the loud conversation happening around me.
To my amazement, the conversation was about Dustin and me, the only white people on the bus. By the time I realized their laughter and exaltation was at my expense, it was time for us to get of the bus.
This group of gentlemen followed us off the bus also. They continued to talk, or yell, to each other about us as we headed toward our homestay.
My first priority was to get to my homestay and inside away from this group of men without letting them see exactly where I lived, which is a common precaution to take in a situation like the one we found ourselves in. After we were inside and I began to reflect on the situation, I became outraged.
I wasn't outraged at them for making fun of me, but I was angry that a group would feel comfortable directly insulting someone they had never met. Then, the reason we were ridiculed hit me smack dab between the eyes. Dustin and I represented something more than two white boys to those men. We were representatives of all whites everywhere, and all the things whites have done.
Taken aback at this, I first wanted to remove the responsibility of being a part of that group, but then I realized that nothing I could do would ever allow me to escape that association. And I shouldn't be ashamed of it, even among ridicule and strife. Some whites have made terrible decisions, of which I had no part, and I can accept it.
I accept that I am part of a bigger group. I accept that, because of being one of that bigger group, I face the wrath of those who have been hurt by some of us whites. Also, I accept the responsibility to look into the group and speak out against the injustices it places on others because, if I do not speak up for the helpless in the realm that I have influence, I am just as responsible as those who did the injustice in the first place.