All you have to do is ask

Written on the Q27 Ltd on the way to work today.

I live in a mostly Asian community, and even along the commute, the usual ratio of passengers is around 8 Asians to 1 non-Asian (Caucasian or African-American).  This morning’s bus was running late so I got on a bus where there were standing passengers already.  I got on (because I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for the next one) and I noticed that there was a vacant seat next to a rather big African-American young man.  He was not big in the sense of being heavy, but he gave you the sense that he wasn’t someone who would relinquish the vacant seat where half his legs were resting.

There were at least 4 other adults who could’ve asked for the seat but non were making a go for it, so I siddled up to where he was, said “Excuse me,” and pointed to the seat to signify I intended to take it.

He moaned in complaint and mumbled “Aw, Shit!” but he moved and allowed me to sit.  It was only after we were seated knee to knee (his knee encroached on my space) that I realized he couldn’t sit straight because his legs were too long.  He didn’t push or complain — he gave me my space.

So I’m here wondering why the four other ladies didn’t bother to ask him to move so they can sit.  If they did, they’d be sitting where I am now in this otherwise packed bus.  Was it because his girth and demeanor intimidated them?  Was it that plus the fact that he was African-American?  All they had to do was ask, just as I did.

For a country that now embraces the most number of ethnicities in its huge immigrant population, the racial lines are still very distinctive and clearly drawn.  With the determination of Corporate America to abide by their Diversity goals, you’d think that Americans, in general, would be more accepting of the cultural mix.

New York is one state which you can call the melting pot of the world indeed as far as immigration is concerned.  One of its ads in its failed bid to host the 2012 Olympics proudly proclaimed: “Every country will have a home court advantage.” — and it would’ve been true.  And yet here where you can name a country and chances are you will find someone who traces his or her roots to there, everyone is stained by racism — Caucasian, African American, and Asians like us Filipinos.  And as part of the minority, we always fall on the short end of the scale. 

Discrimination will always be a fact of life here in the US, but instead of griping against it, we would do better putting our best foot forward and asserting ourselves.  Let it not be a boastful assertion, though — otherwise, it will fall flat on its face.  But being part of the minority should never make us feel small — we are only as weak as we think we are — and we can be as strong as we dare to be.  So when the opportunity presents itself and we have the chance to ask for something rightfully ours like a seat on the bus after we paid our $2.00 fare, then we should ask.  The worst that could happen is that we be refused, and at best, we get what we want, like I got my seat.