Thursday, October 18, 2007
Where the Brother Is Coming From
In New York City it's so easy to get caught up in the broad strokes of the brush that you sometimes forget to step in close and take in the details. It happened in the subway again, a place you're supposed to enter and exit as quickly as possible without getting mugged by fumes or fellow humans. If I had only observed it once, I might not have written about it; but it was once in the morning and once again in the afternoon. The AM incident involved an older looking black man who was standing by the turnstyle waiting for someone--another older looking black man. You got a swipe, the first one asked. Without even giving so much as the appearance of thinking about it, the second man took out his subway card and swiped the first one through. A word of thanks sent them on their ways. It was all so casual, I wasn't sure someone had just been taken for two dollars. Later in the PM, two younger black men repeated the scene. Same question, same swipe, but with a slightly different result: a point of the finger met with a nod of the head. I always wondered why black men were referred to as "brothers." It's not often you feel you understand in New York City. I couldn't understand why I wanted to be a black man in America.