Doing what I’m Supposed to Do

Never in a million years did I think that I would be on a bus giving up my seat for a white man in 2012.

Let me start from the beginning. On yesterday evening I put myself together. I was lookin’ pretty good if I must say so myself. I was on my way to the doctor for my B-12 shot. As I walked toward the bus stop I noticed that there were several policemen at the intersection which was located directly in front of an elementary school. One officer was directing traffic so that kids and parents could cross safely. When the officer saw me strutting towards him in my plaid dress and pretty white open toed shoes he said, “Come on across the street.”

I didn’t tarry. I moved quickly across the street even though I didn’t need to cross. I guess it’s a habit that I picked up from growing up in the hood. When a policeman speaks you just do what he says. Once when I was working at an outreach program the police entered the building under the suspicion that some of the youth and employees were using drugs. When they told everybody to drop to lean against the wall and spread ‘em they weren’t even talkin’ to me but I fell in line beside a musty 19 year old boy with my hands and legs spread. When the policeman searched me he found Midol and a small pack of laxative powder. I was asked to step aside. Unfortunately the teenager who smelled like a billy goat was escorted outside to one of the police cruisers.

So when as I approached the officer in the intersection he smiled at me and I smiled back at him then he said, “I’m always happy to help citizens across the street.” I then indicated that I actually didn’t need to cross the street. “Oh,” he said and held the traffic as I went back toward the bus stop. Before I could reach the bus stop I saw two things. First I saw the bus and secondly I saw a gray haired sweaty woman dragging two kids approaching me.

“I didn’t retire for this shit,” she said. “Hell, I done raised my kids.”

I got on the bus, smiled at the driver and paid my fare. He didn’t take his foot off the brake until I was seated. I thought that was very nice. So often I pay my fare then BAM the bus starts rolling and I have to swing from pole to pole to I find an empty seat which is usually next to some shirtless guy with long toenails. But yesterday was different. I sat in the first available seat in the front of the bus. As the bus moved along swaying, bouncing and rattling I thought this is what so many people fought for; the right to sit where ever they wanted. And here I was an African American woman sitting at the front of the bus. Then the bus came to a stop. A white man got on. The driver stood and started toward a set of seats across from me.

“I can’t sit there,” the white guy said.

Before the driver could look at me I stood and crossed the isle to the seat where the white guy said he couldn’t sit. Once the driver lifted the seat where I’d just been sitting the white guy rolled into the space and locked his wheelchair. Then the driver, a tall black guy with a firm face, looked at me and thanked me. When he returned to the driver’s seat the white guy thanked me.

“No problem,” I said as I smiled at him.

Soldiers are fighting for freedom, people are struggling with various diseases, people are struggling on a shoestring budget to feed their families, activists are fighting for equality, teachers are going into their own pockets to buy school supplies and clothes for needy children in their classes and I’m being thanked for doing what I’m supposed to do.


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