Racism in the world today. I felt like I was in a Toni Morrison novel just the other day as I travelled through the countryside of Oregon and Washington, on the way back to Vancouver. I was sitting on a bus going from one small town to another, and 4 other people were on board. A black man sitting at the back left, who looked rather put together and well dressed, almost too perfectly. The two at the front could have been absolute druggos, all pock marked and scarred by years of drug abuse, both white. Then, a teenage boy about my age sitting directly behind me.
Well, as I often do, I began to converse with the most likely target for interesting chats. I began describing to the man at the back of the bus my last few days. I told him about the dangerous rides I’d picked up on the Oregon coast, and my lack of places to sleep in the cold evenings, and other such exciting things. He listened, a look of growing concern on his face. He had the look of someone who had something to say. Then he said it. “But what’s the value of travelling for other people? You got God, kid?”. Oh, here we go. “No, I don’t really have god, but I mean, I think I learn a lot from this type of trav…”, “I don’t care what it does for you, where is the generosity, the love, where is God!”.
I really didn’t know how to respsond, so I sort of let him speak, until the lady at the front turned around, saying “Well, I think what you’re doing is very brave, and this guy can just shut it!”. Oh no oh no not racism please please please I can’t handle blatant racism oh my god why did I come to this country holy shit. Then the black guy responded in a completely shocking way. He says, “I see you, I see you being crazy. You a little crazy, I saw that about you, I did.” This guy just called a lady crazy on the bus! I couldn’t believe it.
Well from there things really kicked off, and I couldn’t help but think: are these white people (who all ended up berating the guy at the back, while he yelled back at them), just stupid racists, or are the defending me because this guy is preaching at me in a really obnoxious way. I sat in silence. Admittedly I was a little gleeful at the intensity which my purportedly boring bus ride had developed.
But all that being said, it’s just a little bit like a Morrison novel: racism, conflict, yelling, excitement. I was certainly shocked.