This is Laughing Matter 2. Or is it?

-Laugh 2-

Or, you don’t. It’s your choice.

My Insignificant Personal Stories

I’m going to tell you three of my own, honest-to-God, real-life, personal, New York City stories of live-together with racism and stereotype. Or, you can call it something else. It’s your choice.

I simply titled it Laugh 2 because I called the most recent story I told you Laugh 1. These three stories are so dry, down ‘n dirty, straightforward and unfunny that you might start suspecting my basic literary prowess. Heck, I seriously doubted it myself when I went through those little experiences; in fact, when they happened — one event at a time with a gap of a couple of years in between — the only thought that came to my mind was how to save my little brown Indian butt, and go home with a non-disfigured face (or in one instance, go home at all).

And I didn’t laugh.

I just thank God I did not become a post-9/11 FBI or NYPD statistic of hate-crime victims (or in one instance, a permanently disappeared U.S. citizen). I just hope and pray to God that, however insignificant my scare was compared to the grotesque, horrific, nightmarish and bone-chilling experiences so many people I know have gone through, none encounter experiences even as small as mine. I don’t know about you the rough, tough and diehard, man, I nearly peed in my pants. And a grassroots, 9/11 community organizer turned immigrant and labor advocate, I am not particularly known as a wimp.

How do I rank these stories? There is no way I could do that. So, like they write experiences on the resumé with the most recent cited first, I’m going to tell you my stories with the most recent one first. Is it the most stand-out one? Not sure. I leave it up to you to decide on the poignancy indicator of it.

Let’s just cut to the chase. I’ll be brief.

Scare 1

NYC subway on police watch

So, about this time last year, on one late morning on a slow, sunny, early fall day, I was waiting on a downtown NYC subway platform for the E train. I was going to college to teach an afternoon class. I had my trademark brown backpack on my brown back, I had a light jacket on, and I also had my hands in my coat pockets.

A woman — she was likely watching over me for some time — walked up to me, just before the train arrived. She smiled strangely at me, and said, “You’re not carrying a gun on you, are you?” Then she gestured at my hands in my pockets, and smiled again, as if she actually had doubts if I was carrying a hidden gun.

I was so surprised by the suddenness of it that I didn’t know what to say. First I thought she was just joking, however bad and stupid the joke was. But then I realized she was serious. The train came and she and I boarded the train; I now felt quite annoyed that she kept looking at me and my brown skin and my “Islamic-terrorist-looking” face and beard (she didn’t know I was an American Hindu, involved with the American peace movement, and preached global non-violence all my life). I realized she was quite nervous by the possibility that either my backpack or my jacket could indeed carry a gun. And then she walked up to me and repeated her question: “You don’t have a gun on you, do you?”

I had a little interaction with her after that — a non-violent one — and it was lucky I only had one station to ride on the E train. But that one-station, three-minute ride was more than enough. It was pretty long.

I am not CNN or Fox or some tabloid paper, and I don’t mean to make too much of a big deal out of it. But I’ve actually thought about the incident quite a bit afterwards, and in hindsight, I believe it could’ve been much worse under a slightly different set of circumstances.

Think about the incident happening on a Greyhound bus or maybe, a commuter train (I’m excluding airplanes because they’d have body scans and all). I very likely “look like an Islamic terrorist” with my brown skin and pronounced beard based on the profiling and flagging they’d had on countless innocent Muslims, South Asians and Arabs since 9/11. What if this crazy woman walked up to me there, challenged me if I had a gun in my backpack (remember my NYPD-NYCLU bag search lawsuit story?), and then perhaps called the “see-something-say-something” police? I know people who were picked up by the police and FBI and other law enforcement on such charges by “responsible American citizens.” I also know of at least one real-life story a young Sikh friend from New Jersey told me where a busload of Americans started heckling him on his way back home from Philadelphia, called him Osama, and followed him off the bus to the public bathroom, and threatened to beat him up black and blue.

Any of the above could’ve happened to me. That was really the scary part.

Glad in this case, it was “small and significant.” And I came back home in one piece to report it on Facebook the same night.

Funny? Not funny?

___

Scare 2

(to be continued)

5 thoughts on “This is Laughing Matter 2. Or is it?

    1. Yes, human ignorance — this is what they play up on in times of political and economic crises. Our role is to let our people know what is right and what is wrong. People in power would not do it; it’s therefore upon us. Thanks for your comments, Ms. Walker.

    2. Yes, Shauna. You’re so right. Just look at Troy Davis’ barbaric execution and how Americans are still in favor of the death penalty. They don’t even know it’s banned in most advanced countries.

  1. I have been reading the stories..and liking them a lot…but this one is ….funny..no not funny at all.. I had the same experience way back in 2005 after london bombings…I had long hairs and unshaven look. lean the thin with a backpack and long coat, I was going to office..Same way a women stared at me and after i left the train, i was stopped and searched thoroughly…luckily i was carrying my passport somehow…I showed it to them..and my BBC I-card….while i came out of the station i was stopped again by another policemen..Then i asked why police is picking me like this,…they told me quietly…you like a terrorist mate…Ha ha ha ah ah ah ahha…the same women was standing outside the station again staring at me..I still have the chit issued to me after the checking…

    1. Glad to know it happened to you too 🙂

      Sarcasm aside, question is, why? Why so much witch hunting, scapegoating and stereotypes? Where is human dignity? Why do the people in power have so much inefficiency on one hand, and out-of-control repression on the other? Where are the equal rights and equal opportunity they also talk about? Where is the diversity they always brag about?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s