No matter what happens, we'll always have social injustices to fight, wrongs to right and truths to uncover. But what happens when the things you have been fighting for are blatantly rejected and you receive a wake-up call in the form of a slap in the face?
I kept on asking myself that. "What do I do when I see that the causes I fight for like social equity and freedom aren't even appreciated?" The answer: Keep working, because obviously you aren't done yet.
Yesterday the foundation of my beliefs, which strangely resembles a rickety house of cards, was shaken to the point of catastrophe. All these philosophical questions were spurned by two events, one directly after the other.
I board the northbound train terminating at Parker Road from Union Station every evening after work. Never fail. That's what takes me home. Yesterday, I happened to leave work a little later than usual. As I boarded the train the sun was dimming, colliding with the horizon at a sluggish southern pace.
At the West End Station, a crowd of Louisiana evacuees boarded the train. They have all become friends, if not family, as they overcome the loss that Hurricane Katrina burdened them with. They interact like family, loudly laughing at each other and giving hugs and shoves with love an jest.
They all sat close by, and soon after they were settled they began to commune. Two of the boys, neither could be older than 22 or so, began to freestyle, which is what most would consider to be rapping without music or a background rhythm. I felt like I was observing wildlife. These cultural experiences do not happen on the commute back home. All I would normally encounter is a crowded train, chalk full o' suits, ties and briefcases.
My attention was divided between my book and reveling in their leisure. But I soon became rapt as one of the young black men pulled two blunts from his pocket and like pencils, placed one behind each ear. His friend continued to freestyle, but suddenly, the mere sound of his voice made me disgusted. From his pocket he pulled two cigars and then took a razor and cut one down the middle. He emptied the cigar of the tobacco, which he dumped in a brochure compartment.
Stashed in his hand I could see a bag of marijuana. I couldn't believe my eyes. Not only did he already have two blunts behind his ears, but he was about to roll two more! I thought to myself, "Gee, I wonder what he's going to do with those ... With four blunts, he's either going to smoke them or sell them, and now everyone in proximity to him and his group of friends knows it."
It was an exhibition of disrespect. It's not enough for him to possess it in public, but he actually plans on rolling a blunt on a public train? I was crushed. Absolutely crushed.
There were two young Latinas close by. As the young black man pulled the marijuana out of the sack they shrank away from him and his group and made glances of disdain in their direction. Their body language told everyone around "Hey, we don't have anything to do with that!"
"Lovers Lane Station [static] Next stop ... Lovers Lane [static]"
The voice on the intercom announcing my impending stop jerked me from my thoughts. Awakended from a rude awakenining, I pushed through their group to the sliding doors of the train car.
Hurt and shocked, tears came to my eyes. For all the things you fight for every day, for all the prejudices you try to overcome for a better society, for all of your idealism and hard work, this is the sight you enjoy. A young black man, brazen about his drug use and unafraid of the consequences that such an exhibition of disrespect may carry. This is enough to destroy hope.
Shock... Total shock. And then, a more minor offense just set me off.
A group of people littering in a parking lot. They just tossed their trash into the foliage. More disrespect. And that was the proverbial straw that could have broken the camel's back ...
But I'm not giving up. There's still work that must be done.