I had to take the bus downtown today since I had laser eye surgery yesterday and had a checkup appointment. Rarely do I take the bus but I had no choice as my eyes aren’t clear enough yet to drive. Morning traffic, students, shoppers, people going to work. It’s a sunny day, the first warm one we’ve had in a while. The bus from my eastside place passes through Chinatown; not as big as San Francisco’s but the second largest in North America. Many people hop on and off the bus to shop in Chinatown.
Vancouver is fairly multi-ethnic and there has always been a substantial Asian population (Chinese, Indian, Japanese, etc.). The bus was full of people. My eyes were a bit blurry so details were fuzzy but there was at least one black woman, quite a few Chinese, a bunch of whites and this guy who could have been First Nations, maybe Mexican.
He’d had some issue with his bag. Maybe it had spilled, maybe he dropped something. I could quite tell. He had been standing but at some point he gathered up his jacket and other bits and found a seat by moving against those trying to get off the bus, where he swore at the “chink” and “yellow bastard” saying don’t push me. I looked at him (in my giant super dark sunglasses) and several people heard this. After he sat down on a seat that faces the aisle, in front of a seat that faces the front, he proceeded to fiddle with stuff and had his shoe in his hand.
Then he started to swear again, in the same vein at the people sitting beside him. I missed some of it but the guy sitting near to where I was standing said, “You can’t talk to people like that,” very emphatically. Then the guy turned on him to a chorus of fuck offs back and forth where Mr. Belligerent then threatened to “take care” of this other guy at the next stop. At this point I kept an eye on him in case he pulled a knife.
In the meantime, this guy is working at tying a dreamcatcher together, one of the ones that looks fairly prefabricated, but large, about 8-10 inches across, dark brown suede with white feathers and an eagle on it. It was ironic that this guy is working on what is in essence a First Nations spiritual tool while he cursed and threatened. I also told him that he should try being polite to people. The bus driver yelled out that if he swore again he’d be kicked off.
I then found a seat behind the guy who had told off Mr. Belligerent. Mr. B was putting his shoe back on, then again said to the other guy, “Come on, off the bus here and we’ll settle this.” The other guy said, “I don’t want to fight you.” As Mr. B got up to get off the bus, he whacked the cap off the guy’s head in front of me and scuttled away. I gave the guy back his hat.
I used to think racism was only something that white people did to others but here was an example again of how it can hit any person. Mostly this guy seemed mad at the world, belligerent and maybe in need of medication. And spouting things like “yellow bastard” just made it sound like he was regurgitating something he’s heard and taken as the local vernacular in swears. If we all started saying “frak” as they do on Battlestar Galactica it would replace “fuck” but still carry the same weight and be the next banned word from polite society.
Still, the overt racism this guy exhibited was sad and shocking and, I’m happy to say, didn’t sit well with most of the people on the bus. He obviously had other issues, such as anger, but lashing out didn’t serve a lot. I always presumed that a group of people who have had racism perpetuated upon them might be less likely to perpetrate the model. And that’s probably true in most cases but there are always exceptions. Hopefully that guy can find some peace before he does himself and others damage.