Gather round, boys and girls. It's time for a story from your Uncle David.
I'm considering using the following tale as an introduction for a paper I'm writing. I'm curious therefore to know what people's reactions are to it, what they think the "message" is (if any), whether it seems superficial (or too obtuse), etc etc.. Of course, any comments on grammatical or stylistic matters would also be greatly appreciate.
It's been the end of a long day at the end of a long week. A young, white male rides down the subway escalator, anxious to return home. Today will be the first time he's been home before 9 o'clock since Sunday. It's hot inside the station and hot outside the station--no day to be wearing a suit. As he goes through the turnstiles, he sees a train is already on the platform ahead, picking up passengers. Quickening his pace, he strives to catch it before it leaves the station.
"Metro's been spotty this whole week. Who knows when the next one will arrive?"
As he approaches the car, he sees that it is rapidly filling up. Jammed to the hilt, it seems. Still, there is room for one more...
Just before he reaches the subway, a black woman appears seemingly out of nowhere and slides inside. They connect as he goes by--not quite a collision, but not quite a brush either. The train is full, the doors close. The young white man is left on the outside.
"Hey, what the hell? What are you trying to pull?" The young man screams. The car hasn't left yet, the African-American can still see him through the window. He gesticulates wildly, ranting, yelling, upset even though he doesn't really know why. The woman's eyes widen--she looks afraid, but he doesn't notice. He continues, animal, bestial, consumed.
"Fuck you" he finally says. She can't hear him (the windows block out the sound), but she can see his raised middle finger. He stalks off, to wait for the next car.
* * *
He's home now. The rage has worn off. He knows he over-reacted. Why was he so angry? He doesn't really know. "Must have been the heat," he thinks. Stress too.
He remembers the look on the woman's face as he yelled at her. My God, she probably thinks I'm a racist!" The thought weighs heavily upon him. He knows he's not a racist. He votes for progressive candidates. He supports affirmative action. He even attended rallies for racial justice when was in college. He can't be a racist...right?
She, of course, didn't know any of that. Which means that she is probably home right now, thinking about her near miss with the racist white guy in the subway station. For a flash, he's angry at her again. She should know better--it was rush hour, everybody is touchy. How dare she consider him a racist!
"Am I a racist?" The question pops unbidden, jarring, disconcerting. Was this an anomaly, a fluke, an unfortunate byproduct of, as he had justified it before, heat and stress?
He ponders this for a moment. Why was he so upset? Because she had taken the last spot on the train, that's why. He would have been angry no matter who it was. "And," he reminds himself, "I'd be upset afterwards about my reaction. It's not right to treat anyone that way."
In fact, he thinks, there’s no reason to think of this in racial terms at all. This was a tense moment between two rushed commuters at rush hour. Happens thousands of times across the country, every day. For that matter, why did he just assume that the woman thought of the incident as race-related? That's not fair to her—that's the very type of race-conscious thinking that does cause racism. Nope--this was just a tragic case of stress. He wasn't racist, she didn't think he was racist--racism was entirely, completely, totally irrelevant.
The man makes a mental note to apologize to the woman if he saw her again, knowing that in the multi-million person metropolis they lived in, the chances were slim to none. He feels bad about that--but what can he do?
He relaxes. All is calm again.