If You Don’t Engage, You’re “Racist”

Macarthur BART station via Yelp.com

Macarthur BART station via Yelp.com

I’m a 20 year old South Asian woman living in Berkeley, CA, USA. I was riding the 18 bus to Macarthur BART station in Oakland around 8.45 at night. I was sitting near the front of the bus reading a book and listening to music. There was a black man in his 30s sitting in front of me, who turned all the way around in his seat and staring at me. I managed to ignore him for a while, but when I took one earbud out of my ear to adjust it, he took that as an invitation to tell me I had beautiful hair. I smiled very slightly but didn’t say anything and went back to my music and book.

He kept talking to me, in a raised voice so as to be heard even above my music. Finally I took my earbud out again and said very quietly, “If you don’t mind I would just like to read, thanks”.

He proceeded to get very angry and began calling me an “uppity bitch”, a “fat ho”, and a “racist Indian cunt” who thought I was “too good to talk to a black man”.

I kept my eyes down because I really didn’t want to give him any more reason to follow me off the bus and he eventually stopped cursing at me and walked to the back of the bus.

I’ve lived in Berkeley for three years now and I’ve been catcalled, whistled at, had my appearance remarked upon multiple times but this was the first time I was actually worried I was in danger. Sometimes I hate living in this area.

– anonymous

Location: Berkeley, California

[editor’s note: see this blog post for how common this man’s reaction is.]

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

6 Responses to If You Don’t Engage, You’re “Racist”

  1. Vi says:

    I’m sorry that happened to you. I live in the same area (take the 18 all the time, in fact). Buses are a weird place to deal with harassment, because… you usually can’t just get off the bus immediately, since you’re trying to get somewhere and the guy could follow you off anyway. It’s really okay to move to another part of the bus–it feels rude, but everyone around you has probably already noticed that a guy is harassing you, so they’re not going to think badly of you or anything. (And who cares what the guy himself thinks!)
    I know it feels really awkward to move if the bus is a smaller one, or it’s not very full, or you’re sitting on the window side of the seat and someone (guy or someone else) is sitting next to you, but you should still feel *totally okay* about moving–preferably up near the driver. If the guy physically follows you to another part of the bus (unlikely, but possible), you can ask the driver to intervene.

  2. nycthinker says:

    That drives me crazy. I know exactly what you mean. There is this guy in my neighborhood who has been pestering me for years. If I pretend not to see him, he follows me and talks to me until I talk to him. If I’m walking down the street, not close enough for him to be near, he’ll talk in this really loud voice to somebody else about me so that I can hear him all the way down the block. One time he asked me out and I said no. His response? “Why not? You got something against black me?”. Ugh! Yeah, that’s it. I mean why else would I not want to go out with such a perfect male specimen such as yourself?

  3. Thanks for sharing your advice, Vi. NYCThinker ugh, sorry to hear about the neighborhood harasser. Have you ever considered reporting him? is there a certain area where he usually hangs out? could you post signs around there saying “don’t harass women”?

  4. Alan says:

    Not to defend or condone, but I think this response from black men is the result of so many years/generations of oppression by the white american culture against Blacks. I can’t accept a response like this, but I think I understand it. I think somewhere deep inside, he (and all these kind of guys) know you’re going to reject them and they actually want that rejection to reinforce their belief that society is out to get them and continue to oppress them.

    Perhaps this is way too deep for a Saturday morning! In any case, sorry Anonymous, nycthinker, Vi and all of you who have to deal with these kinds of situations.

  5. nycthinker says:

    He doesn’t really do anything. He just talks to me, but anytime he asks me to hang out, and I try to politely refuse, his whole demeanor just changes. Besides, I think reporting him would do more harm than good because then he would really have it out for me. I do have a certain amount of protection in the form of my ex boyfriend and his family. They are really well known and liked in the neighborhood and I think the fact that I know the family lessens the harassment. I feel sorry for the women who don’t have that protection factor. That makes it sound like some kind of episode of the Sopranos. 🙂 But seriously, he has been bothering me for years. Ignoring him seems to work best.

  6. Golden Silence says:

    Not to defend or condone, but I think this response from black men is the result of so many years/generations of oppression by the white american culture against Blacks.

    Whatever the reason, the Black harassers who pull out the race card are full of it. Heck, any harasser who pulls out the race card is full of it. Even being the same race as a Black harasser they’ll still find a way to pull the race card, and I can speak from experience dealing with intra-racial harassment from Black men. For instance, this story submitted to Racialicious called “Oh, You Can’t Speak to a Brotha?” proves my point.

    It’s a lame tactic harassers use and it needs to end.

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