When I was living in the Bronx, I worked in Brooklyn. For all those familiar with New York borough geography, yes, that was in fact the worst plan ever.
One day during Black History Month, I was taking the very, very long ride home after a horribly long day of high-end toddler product retail, and my subway car happened to be the chosen spot for a Black History Month percussion performance. Normally, I support art and expression, but if you’ve ever commuted on the New York Subway you know that after the first fifty blocks or so, performance art of any sort gets really old. I settled down in my seat and tried not to let the drums bother me. By the time I got towards my stop I was the only white girl on the train. Actually the only white person on my train at all, which was a daily occurrence. The neighborhood I lived in was very ethnically diverse, it just only included the white people who lived in my apartment. The drumming continued, and I kept trying to read my book.
The rapper from the performance came up to me and asked in a very hostile way, “Are you disrespecting my people?”
I was shocked and a little scared. No one ever talked to the little white girl on the train. They usually just stared at me wondering if I was lost. I said politely, “No, I’m just reading my book.”
He said, “No, you’re disrespecting my people. This is black history month.”
“I’m sorry sir,” I replied trying to hide back in my book.
“You need to pay attention. My people built this train!” He nearly shouted getting uncomfortably close to my face. This pissed my freckle-face-ginger-haired-self-off.
“No, sir,” I replied in a tone that was probably too hostile for one who wants to continue to survive in the Bronx. “I’m Irish. My people built this train.”
When I told my husband the story that night, he may have gotten a little angry with me. Apparently I don’t have very good self-preservation instincts.