Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Are you Taliban, do you have a bomb?

So, I took the L yesterday to Best Buy (d--n laptop charger died!). Standing at Roosevelt station, minding my own business, when two young African-American guys next to me ask that question. Quite loud. Then bust out laughing. I stiffen, look straight ahead and walk away. They point at my camera. "What's in there? A bomb? ... Nah man, maybe it's just some good ol' drugs." I cannot believe what I'm hearing. I pretend not to hear, lean against a pillar and wait for the train to arrive. They follow me. "We're undercover man! Oh no, if we're undercover, then we just blew our cover." More laughter.

Minutes pass by. I look around. The platform is crowded, the Red Line is running slow. There's several white folk, several black folk, a few East Asian folk. I'm certain all those around me have heard these two young jerks. No one says a word. All look away. "Stupid jerk teenagers!" I tell myself. Think they're being really funny. Why the heck is the train not here? Ah there it is ... but it trundles on past, an express. I move again. I don't want to be in the same compartment as these guys. They follow me again. Ok, this is no longer funny. "They're just kids" I keep telling myself. Getting angry and getting into a fight will not be helpful at all.

The train finally arrives, and at the last second, I dash into a different compartment, and find a seat.

Strangely, I haven't shared this with anyone yet ... (well, with R in NYC on the phone, just a little while ago) it's like I did something wrong (which is, of course, ludicrous).

I've never experienced anything like this. Not even in the UK. And most certainly not in the South. Yes, they were just teenagers being jerks. I brush it off and forget about it. And hope those teens don't pick on the 16 year old Indian or Pakistani or Middle Eastern kid in their neighborhood or high-school.


St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...

I'm sure the other folks were afraid of being the next target--and worried about what would happen if they responded.

Let's hope these kids grow up before they "get what's coming to them" from someone without your self control.

feels like apologizing for "ugly Americans."

Anonymous said...


Lack of maturity is an issue with these two young punks. They likely found amusement in making fun of someone - an ego boost at an other's expense.

What's more appalling is the lack of response from others around you.

Sorry you went through such an awful ordeal.



pritcher said...

Wow...I'm really sorry you had to go through that.

Gashwin said...

Thanks y'all -- I really wasn't that upset. Just really taken aback and surprised. Sh*t happens. I'm grateful it doesn't happen more often.

St. Eliz, no need to apologize to me on behalf of my own adoptive country :)

assiniboine said...

And in Chicago. Why is it that this sort of thing seems to happen there, the city that Jan Morris regards as her favourite in the USA, the most underrated, the handsomest?

Saul Bellow of course responded with acute nervousness about black people which he didn't forbear to acknowledge, sometimes very embarrassingly as far as fans of his like me are concerned. (Charged with regarding dead white males as the bastions of civilisation, he famously responded, "Who is the Tolstoy of the Zulus? The Proust of the Papuans?"

And a friend of mine from East New Britain who spent a year in Chicago working for the Catholic diocese ran into difficulties over referring to himself as black instead of African American. "But I'm not African and I'm not American. But I am black." "Well, say 'African American' anyway." He got out of it in a way that perhaps might not be to your taste even if it did apply in either specific: "Well, not only am I black -- a lot blacker than you, in fact -- but I'm also a lot bigger than you." Lots of amusement among his fellow Pacific Islanders when he tells this story, needless to say.

assiniboine said...

(Incidentally, why do you say, "Not even in the UK"? By common accord these things are far less likely to happen there than in the US; have you had some untoward experiences?)

Gashwin said...

@assiniboine: oh yeah. I tend to feel that the critical mass of S. Asians is much higher in the UK and I've always felt a lot more uncomfortable in Europe and the UK than I ever have in the US.