Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Rosa's Legacy

Walking through Harlem on a dusty spring morning, the ground is slowly drying on one side of the street while the other side remains dark with the wetness of early morning drizzle. City sounds surround me. Horns blaring, people yelling, the sounds of cars and trucks whooshing by intermingled with the call of a crow just settled in a nearby tree. I make a strange sight in Harlem and some people stare while we wait for our bus. I hear their silence loudly, “What’s this white lady doing in the middle of Harlem waiting for a bus.” No one speaks yet their eyes say more or is this just my imagination?
Right now all I want to think about is when will the right bus pick me up? My fellow waiters give up staring at me and it is as though, by default, I finally fit into the scene. I become one with it. We are all just passengers waiting for a new life or waiting for our own demise. Well, o.k., I'm being dramatic, we're only waiting for the bus. It's taking a long time today. I'm waiting for the crosstown. I count four M100's and three M101's before the bus I need comes by.
When I finally board the bus, no one sees me anymore. I may as well be invisible and then a young pedestrian strides by dressed in a red plaid mini-skirt and thigh high stockings. The two ladies seated in front of me comment on her style.
The first lady says, "Oh, she thinks she looks cute, but she doesn't!"
"No," I cut in, "She don't look cute, she looks sexy!"
Both of them crack up. We're talking about overweight, middle-aged women.
I say, "If I were small and skinny, I wouldn't mind wearing that."
They giggle in embarrassment at my spoken words. I continue, "But I'm not. so I can't."
They laugh harder. "You're too much," one of them replies.
At that moment, I'm not white or black, just another woman who knows and sees what they see.
This makes some sense, fits the cliche. But what I really want to say is that there are all types of prejudice. Color is only one of them. Prejudice is an excuse to treat someone mean and put them down. People find all kinds of reasons to put each other down. Just examine history and you'll see. I don't even need to get into it.