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It was around 11:00am when I took to the NYC subway that morning. I was in the city for an employee summit to meet many of my fellow co-workers in which I’d only prior met through emails and phone calls. The summit had ended the night before and free time was upon me. Headed to Harlem on the 1 train, I finally got a seat on the packed car full of New Yorkers and tourist alike, all in their own worlds, but focused on nothing. Frank Ocean’s Swim Good played muse as I closed my eyes to avoid the blank faces from across the car. As the music in my earphones slowly came to and end, I couldn’t help but over hear two young men talking about Donald Sterling’s racist chatter with his girlfriend that was splattered all over the internet late the night before. The young men were both in their mid twenties, dressed in blazers and some retro sneakers. One of the men was an African American man who had square-framed eye glasses that I really took a liking too. He caught me slightly eavesdropping in on their conversation about Sterling. He was telling his friend, a Caucasian man with slick hair, how crazy Donald Sterling was and how he couldn’t believe how the Clippers could play in the game Sunday night.
I immediately turned my head towards the two men and it interrupted their conversation. He then directed his statements towards me. I took my headphones out of my ears and asked the men if they had read Magic Johnson’s tweet about the whole situation. The Caucasian man whipped his glasses off of his face and yelled, “DAMN RIGHT, I retweeted it!” I laughed aloud because his passion completely caught me by surprise. It wasn’t even noon on a Saturday and two strangers, one white, one black were having a public conversation about race and racism. I felt honored they allowed me to join in. I asked my white counterpart if he had any ideas on solutions to fix such an ugly situation. “Death,” said the young man. “With death comes a new era of thought.” I thought it was a harsh way to look at it but he was absolutely right. Their generation were not only upset with the comments of Sterling, but they were also able and willing to be publicly vocal about their discourse. It was a testament to how far we have come in race relations in this country, but it also shows us how we have so much further to go.
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Three men, two black, one white have an open conversation about race on a metro train in New York City. People finally left their own worlds and focused on something. They were focusing on our conversation, and if this was the first time they have ever seen and heard people of different races having an open dialogue conversation about racism and old racist white guys, I’m glad I was a part of the experience for them. In order to heal any scars of slavery, racism, bigotry, and hatred, we must have the conversations. We must talk to our fellow brothers about our pain, and disgust. More over, we must be an example to others that the conversations are good and will work. It won’t lead to violence, it won’t lead to animosity, but it will lead to closure. Closing a chapter in our history that was ugly. Open dialog won’t cure the world of people who have hate in their hearts, but it will let you know that everyone who isn’t like you also isn’t like Donald Sterling either, and you can find good-hearted people who might not look like you, but share something way more important, core values.
The men got off the train a few stops later and I shook their hands before we parted. They advised me to read some of Kevin Hart’s tweets on the subject matter and I obliged. I put my headphones back in my ears and thought about the barriers we had crossed. No we didn’t save the world in one fell swoop, but maybe we opened a few eyes on the train that day, and small victories are good enough for me.
words by: Blogzworth