The following is a post to facebook by Dominique Morisseau. We are acquainted via the minute vastness that is the world of theatre in NYC. If you want to know who is and what she does, consult your local internet search engine. She got credits, son.



Nigger Hit Us All...

October 30, 2010 at 12:40pm
A tradition of mine to re-post an experience I had a few years ago on Oct 31st....

Halloween. 1:30am. Most crowded A Train ride of my life. Really. On the way to Brooklyn- smooshed into the train car and separated from my friends like we were going through the middle passage. Moist naked skin from ridiculous Halloween costumes puts me way too close to the touch of some random man's hairy legs. I'm already dyin', and the drama has yet to begin.

We get to West 4th and the car gets unloaded by the many people still in search of the next party to swing to, and my man and I catch two empty seats together. We think we are free. The train re-fills with some more crazies and the train takes off. Then it happens.

A White man, his girlfriend, and some young pre-teen that is with them, all enter the train- pushing past the tall older teens and young adults, some just costume-less, some faces masked in monster-ness or stocking caps and the like.

I guess somebody touched the White man's hair. It's reddish brown and wild and I'm hoping he is wearing a costume, but in NYC- you just never know. But somebody must've touched his hair, cuz he starts screaming "Don't touch my fucking hair" really loudly on the train. His girlfriend and the pre-teen with him look embarassed. They try to quiet him down. The murmurs and laughter of the masked teens get louder as they shout stuff back to him. It's inarticulate.

But the White man continues his rant, until he's so angry. So wild-eyed. So drunk. He spews amidst the laughter - "I can't stand all you stupid niggers".

A beat. A long moment of silence. Time damn near froze. The word "niggers" hit us all. The people sitting on the sidelines. The children in Halloween costumes rummaging through their candy. The mother standing right behind the White man- who kept flinching from his reckless elbows in her side. She covers her baby in the stroller that he is unconsciously pushing her into. The heat rises in all of our collective throats. We are all immediately pissed. Collectively ready to kick his ass.

"I can't stand all you stupid niggers". Beat. The train erupts in "WHOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA" from about twenty Black and Brown voices, but it felt like a million of us. A million people ready to pound this drunk man into oblivion.

I can't hear my own heartbeat. I stand and scream something I can't even remember. I can't even hear cuz we are all screaming at this man at the same time. I was ready to spit on him. To throw something at him. My man stood up, ready to do the same. The blood was rushing through us like crazy. "We are going to kill your ass," I was thinking.

Then suddenly, I look to my right, at the little boy, six-years old-lookin', brown-skinned, fake blood coloring his face, and fake knife going through his head. He looked so excited about his candy just moments ago. Now he stood, back against the train wall. Out of his seat. Invisible to everyone else because the rage was focused on the man who had just cursed us all. Even his mother didn't see him. But I did. His eyes were wide and alarmed. He look FRIGHTENED by the mayhem. FRIGHTENED.

I touch him gently. Shield him with my arm. "It's okay, baby. It's alright." He looks at me and starts to cry. I realize he should hardly trust me. Just seconds ago, he probably heard me cursing something obscene and horrible. I instantly hate myself for losing my cool.

My man sees the boy too. We both start to comfort him. Then the stranger next to him ruffles his hair a bit to calm him down. Finally the mother sees, and tries to join in the comfort, but must stay standing to protect her younger one in the stroller. The noise and screaming is still going on all around us.

The White man is screaming and cursing so much I think I can see his lungs. The train is so overwhelemed with adrenaline and hatred I think we are going to ride this thing straight into Hell. Or I think this White man is about to be pulvarized.

We pull into the next stop quickly, and everyone warns this man that he better "get the _____ off the train". He pushes past all the people. The innocent Black, Brown and White faces that he whizzes by hear all the noise but missed the details and have no idea why they should hate this man.... but they do. You can tell. White man makes it free off of the train, but looks back to see that his girlfriend and the preteen have been left behind. He has left them on the train with US. It is his grave mistake.

He starts banging on the train window for her to get off. She is called Maya. "Maya PLEASE GET OFF THE TRAIN" he screams and bangs on the window. The word "niggers" flies from his mouth again, and he is sending electricity through this train that none of us is prepared for.

For whatever reasons, Maya never got off. Neither did the pre-teen. The train doors close and pull off, and the Black and Brown bodies on the train start laughing. Laughing that Maya is left on the train with this angry pack of wolves. Left to the "niggers".

It's a little funny at first. As the train pulls away, we laugh at the fool for leaving his girlfriend and this pre-teen behind. What an idiot. What a coward.

But then... Maya begins to catch all the hell he left behind. The teenagers and young adults start messing with her. The pre-teen is falling apart by this point. His curly hair is compared to "Sideshow Bob" by the teenagers. Maya, whose piercings and red hair make her the target of a number of stereotypical White punk rocker jokes, gets called "Pink", and "Eminem", and is taunted and yelled at the entire train ride home.

Maya is afraid, but she is a fighter. She curses back. She stands her short ground next to the tall group of guys and girls that taunt her. "I"m from Brooklyn" she declares. That's supposed to give her some clout. It doesn't much. But in hind sight- she got points for standing up for herself. Which is more than we can say for the White man who left her to "the wolves".

But the pre-teen is broken. The yelling and the taunting is too much for him. It's too much for the little brown boy. It's just too much. The pre-teen is afraid. He is embarassed by the White man's actions. He looks to me and my man and begins crying and apologizing profusely.

"I'm...I'm sorry" he keeps saying through a quivering voice and tears. His body is shaking and I fear that he may faint or collapse. He, like the little brown boy, is FRIGHTENED by the mayhem.

I reach out to him also. Try to touch his arm. Calm him. He's just a child himself. "It's okay," I try to tell him. "Don't be scared, honey. You will be fine. They are just being silly."

But ain't nothin' funny about it. Not to him, at least. Not to Maya. Not to the little brown boy. And eventually, not to me. Not to my man. Not to the others on the car who are getting tired of the teenagers and their loudness and their rude racial jokes. We are getting TIRED.

And as we sit on this hellishly long train ride, I realize what this word "nigger" has done to us. It hit us all. Not just the teenagers. Not just the Black and Brown train passengers. All of us. Maya was scorned by it. Had to ride home in its aftermath. The pre-teen was traumatized over it. Will now be afraid of Black and Brown people for what could be the rest of his life. Every White person that got on that train was now a target. Because the Black and Brown teenagers had to reclaim the power that was stripped from them by this word. They had to spit back the hate any way they could find. Become the "wolves" that they were being treated as.

And I was wondering to myself, as my man and I were walking our friend home... glad to be off of that A Train... glad to finally be in Brooklyn....still hearing the yelling and taunting in our own minds....

Were we even mad at that White man? Drunk off his behind and completely stupid and not to be taken seriously in any way whatsoever. Was it he who offended us? Or was it the word?

Nigger. Nigger - when said that way makes us less than. Makes us inferior. Makes us aware of our "place" in the world, even as one of us sits in the highest seat in the country. We can still be stripped of our dignity. We can still be dehumanized. Still be impoverished and ignored and humiliated.

Whether the White man says it to us.... whether we say it to ourselves..... we have given that damn word waaaaay too much power. Waaaaaaaaaaayyy too too much.....