Someone called me ni—r on the bus the other day.
There was hate in her eyes, contempt in her soul, and venom on her lips where my fist should have been.
It happened on the commuter bus that I take twice a week to teach a journalism class in college.
The drama began when the misanthrope missed his bus and ended up on mine, in a seat next to me.
When she pulled out her phone and started scrolling, I assumed she was checking the bus schedules. But I was wrong.
Then he began to read. Aloud.
It sounded like an anti-Semitic manifesto.
Everything I read was about Jews. Jews run this company. The Jews run that company.
Every paragraph he read had the same message: the Jews were evil. And he wanted everyone on the bus to know it.
After about five minutes, it was probably only two, he had had enough.
I politely asked him to read to himself. I didn’t want to hear it.
“But you need to hear this,” he insisted. “This is the truth.”
I spoke a little louder. I was a bit more upset. I told him I didn’t want to hear anything he had to say. I told him I had to do my own reading.
There were other people on the bus. A diverse crowd of travelers. No one else said a word.
We were sitting behind the driver. He didn’t say anything either.
The man began to read aloud again. More Jewish hate.
Was he offended? Yeah.
But to be totally honest, I could have been reading the comics or the classified ads, and it still would have bothered me.
How do you sit next to someone on a public bus and think it’s okay to start reading aloud?
So I raised my voice again. This time the whole bus could hear me. I told him he was being an idiot.
Because he was.
And that’s when the fan hit.
“I didn’t call you any name, nor—r.”
He said it twice. As if she hadn’t heard it the first time.
I visualized my fist in his face. And again. Then I visualized missing my class and getting arrested for assault.
I told him to shut up and leave me alone.
He read again. Silent this time. She then moved to the back of the bus.
It was later suggested to me that maybe I helped bring this on, that I should have avoided talking to a stranger and moved to another part of the bus.
Since I am not Jewish, the person said, I should not have been offended, and that by confronting him and calling the man a——e, I provoked him.
Mistaken. He caused me. And everyone on the bus.
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I didn’t kick his ass, like I probably should have. But I stood up to the bully and stopped him from spouting his hate. For a few minutes, anyway.
He got off the bus before me, and when he left, another passenger, who witnessed the whole ordeal, finally spoke up.
“Who was that? Donald Trump?”
Oh, now you have something to say.
I ignored him, but thought about what he said. I am a black journalist in New York City. It wasn’t the first time they called me ni—r.
I have interviewed Donald Trump before. It was not about Donald Trump.
He never called me ni—r to my face.