On my way to US Cellular Field last Saturday to watch the White Sox play the Red Sox, I had quite an encounter on the Chicago L. I was with my friends and their aunts and uncles, so we were in a big group (fortunately). A clearly intoxicated black man walked into the train car that we were in. He proceeded to sit next to me, even though there were many empty seats all around. He turned around and shook my friends’ hands before he directed his attention to me. This isn’t going to go well, I thought. Here’s the gist of the conversation:
Him: “Hey. What’s up man? Where’re you from”
Me: “Around Detroit”
Him: “I’m a gang member in Chicago.”
Me: “… Oh, really. Good to know”
At this point I was getting pretty uncomfortable. Luckily I was in a big group. I was just hoping he wasn’t going to pull out a gun or a knife.
Him: “Are you having a good day today?”
Me: “Yeah pretty good.”
Him: “I’m not having a very good day today.”
Me: “Really. Why?”
I was trying not to piss him off. He leaned it, about to tell me a story. I didn’t budge.
Him: “Are you listening?”
At this point, my friend’s uncle walked up to us, tapped him on the shoulder and told him, “Hey, I’m going to sit next to my friend here for a little bit.” The man nodded and got up easily. To my surprise.
Welcome to Chicago, they say.
Well. It was quite a train ride. Besides the fact that my life was probably in danger, it got me thinking a whole lot about social justice. I became uncomfortable as soon as he walked into the train car, and felt that something was amiss. Sure, this would’ve happened regardless of his skin color, but it made me feel that the actions of our past undoubtedly have ramifications til today. The income disparity among different races is still palpable. Everywhere I go, I can’t help but notice that most people on the sidewalks and in the shady alleys tend to be of the non-White background. What have we done wrong here? Have we done enough? Or are we doing anything at all?
Is it my responsibility to do something? Responsibility not as me specifically, but as a fortunate being on the planet who have enough to go by everyday. Do I have to care? What can I do?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, but this incident sure helped put things in perspective. Too often I (we perhaps?) take for granted what I have, and too often I take for granted the very sentence I’m typing right now. Too often, I take for granted what it means to be alive.
Why are we here? What are we supposed to do? What does this all mean?
I want to see a world where everyone is truly equal and can feel safe everywhere they go. I want to see a world where we care about others as much as ourselves. Is this ever possible?