Racial Mud Slinging
Call me Opie from Maybury if you have to, but a few years ago I remember seeing an argument explode between a very American sounding black man, and a brown-skinned man with a white beard, turban, and thick foreign accent, in the bowels of Port Authority Bus Terminal. I don’t know where either man is from; I don’t know their story, and I don’t know what led to the argument. But by the time I noticed the disagreement was taking place they were both spewing racial slurs at one another.
I heard the black man yell first “I can’t wait for Donald Trump to send you back to where you came from,” and the brown-skinned man shouted back “I pay for your welfare,” and so on, with each person hoping to inflict embarrassment by using the others negative cultural stereotypes. They definitely threw some slurs, insinuations about families, "you’re a gang member," "you’re a terrorist," and I was so taken aback by the exchange. I have engaged with white-people perpetuating racism against people of color too many times to count. I’ve stepped in, I’ve defused, I have instigated (against the racism), and many other forms of engagement with that kind of racism.
But, seeing it be two people of color, one an immigrant, one seemingly a black New Yorker (going by Yankee cap and accent) going back and forth with racial insults really was stunning to me. It was the first time I had gazed with adult eyes at the true melting pot of New York City. It made me think about diversity and race politics in a whole new light. The American melting pot is still quite divided and in that instance, I got a crash course in exactly how divided it is. I understand as a concept the idea bigotry between people of color. Hell, in Menace 2 Society the inciting incident was an Asian store owner showing bias against a black kid.
But seeing it in person, with no context made it real in a way that movies literally aren’t meant to. Another striking realization about the argument is it made me realize I didn’t know whose side to be on. Both men reduced the argument to race, both men were hurling vile insults that didn’t need to be said, and neither seemed willing to relent. The black man yelling things that were Pro-Trump when so much of his base is anti-black, while the brown-skinned man rattled off every negative stereotype about black people, thugs, welfare queens, and thieves. Both of them intent on being as ignorant as possible while shouting down the other.
When we talk about cultural melting pots like New York City we so often only think about the inter-race, inter-gender, inter-faith, etc. cooperation. But in a place as well represented as New York City you have got to take the good with the bad when it comes to race relations. Maybe I was an idealist, and a bit of an idiot, before that moment. But overhearing that argument really altered the way I look at cultural diversity.