The media and blogs have all been a tizzy over the story of a White marine who got into a physical altercation with Black passengers on a bus when he asked them to stop using the word nigger and referring to White women as, “White bitches.”
Hardie, a former Marine, was on his way home from a long day of searching for a job when, three Black men at the back of the bus were apparently intimidating his fellow passengers on the bus. He decided that it was time to speak up and said, “Given the nature of what we’ve gone through with the word nigger, it’s not appropriate to loosely throw that word around or refer to white women as white bitches, and I’d appreciate if they stopped that.”
The men then proceeded to get into a fight with Hardie and being a former marine, he held his own until they ran off the bus. None of the other passengers got involved in the altercation. Today he is being praised as a hero. Hardie went on to say, “I hope people in that situation will not be afraid to stand up to other people and tell them to be respectful. They have a right to do so.”
Okay, my response is not one that is going to make me popular but I think that there are a lot of unexamined racial issues being ignored with the desire to praise a White man as the conquering hero. First, I wonder if these men would have been thought of as bullying or aggressive if they were White men speaking loudly on a bus. We all know that just by the nature of racial dynamics that Black men are almost always assumed to be threatening even when they are in a neutral position. This is why people cross the road when they see them coming, and taxis are resistant to stopping. Lenny Kravitz did after all sing, Mr Cabdriver don’t like my colour skin. Even if the language was not pleasant should that really be enough for them to have been constructed as a threat. As far as I can tell there were no reports of them specifically intimidating passengers by getting in anyone’s personal threat or uttering threats.
I further believe that it was paternalistic for Hardie to decide that it was his place to lecture Black men on the history of the word nigger. Nobody knows better than Black people the harm that this word has caused. It was not his place to say a damn word about their choice to use that word. I personally believe that nigger should be stripped from our social lexicon however, I fully realize that my feelings do not represent the entire Black community. We each have to find a way to negotiate this hateful slur and it is not for anyone who is not personally effected by this slur to sit in judgement of this.
Hardie did have a point about the men calling White women, White bitches. That term is of course sexist. It was most certainly meant to be verbal violence however I suggest that had this not been a case of a group of Black men, I doubt that Hardie would have said a word, after all, it’s not like Black men have the market cornered on misogyny.
I don’t believe it was right that the Black men escalated the confrontation to violence, but I don’t necessarily believe that we should be praising Hardie as a hero. This situation is far more complex than it immediately appears. It’s always going to be easy to praise the White man as the conquering hero, because that is the way White masculinity has been framed but we really need to stop and pause and consider all of the issues at play. This was a confrontation that did not need to happen.