Friday, November 7, 2008
While some people were marching in marches and sitting in sit-ins and writing protest letters and working for civil rights organisations in big and obvious ways, others were doing the same thing just by living it. I know a man who was an officer in the army. He was preparing to serve in the Korean War, at a training camp in the south in some town I should know the name of, for I have heard the story a few times, but the town does not matter. He had been off the army base for some entertainment and was riding the bus back at the end of the day. The bus was full, every seat taken. A black woman got on, looking tired to him. So he did the natural thing, the right thing for a man on a recreational jaunt to do for a woman who had been working all day. He got up and offered her his seat. I bet she paused for just a fraction of a second before she gratefully took it. The bus driver saw what happened, and stopped the bus. He bellowed that she could not sit there, that she had to move to the back of the bus. The man said there were no seats back there and that she was tired and that she could have his. The bus driver said that people of her color did not sit in the front of the bus, seats or no seats, and she would have to get up and move back. He used a word I will not use even to tell the story. The man moved ahead a step or two, putting himself between the bus driver and the woman and said "You are going to have to fight me if you are going to come back here and try to make her move." The bus driver grunted and probably spat in the aisle, but he drove on.