My husband, three-year-old son and I were on a train, returning home after a fun day out. We were sitting in a foursome – two sets of two seats facing each other. You were sitting in the foursome in front of us with your man and your two little girls.
“Who does she think she is?” you complained to your companion. ” She just don’t want her kid touched because we black!”
I wasn’t sure I was hearing right. Did you really just say that? Are you talking about me?
I wanted to tell you all of this…
My husband and son were looking out the window, enjoying the scenery we passed on our journey. I was taking pictures of said husband and son. Your older girl was turned around in her seat, watching us. She asked me to take her picture, which I did. She grinned when I showed her the preview image on my camera.
She and her sister crawled through the seats and sat facing us, their backs to you. You called them back but I looked over to you and smiled, it’s fine with me if it’s okay with you. We chatted with your girls. They told us they are three and five. My son insisted to the girls that he was four, not three. We giggled.
We took more pictures. I had gotten some really cute shots of your girls, and thought I’d ask if you wanted me to e-mail you the shots. Your younger girl had dried snot under her nose. She coughed several times. After awhile your older girl went back to sit with you, but the younger one stayed.
Then your daughter started touching my son. Normally I have no issue with kids touching each other respectfully. My son is asthmatic, though. And your daughter is sick. Sick for my son means 4 breathing treatments a day for weeks, then three, then two, until we sigh with relief that it’s only our “normal” once per day. One particularly nasty sick meant two days in the hospital.
I gently said to your daughter, “Let’s not touch please,” and “please don’t touch”, and when she didn’t I gently removed her hand. She wasn’t listening, so I removed her hand several times over about 5 seconds.
You suddenly came over, literally dragged her by the arm and leg over the seat and said, “Stop touching people who don’t want you to touch them!”
I sat there, shocked at how you had dragged her over the seat, but said nothing.
When I heard you say, “She got some nerve! Who does she think she is? She just don’t want her kid touched because we black!” I wanted to tell you all of this. My husband heard it, too. He told me to leave it alone.
I heard your companion tell you that you were off base, to chill out with that kind of talk. I heard you saying not nice things.
I couldn’t just sit there and have you not understand. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t say everything I wanted to say, but I had to say something.
So I said, “No, it’s just because she’s sick.” Even though I knew it wouldn’t help. But I had to say it.
Your companion tried to soothe your anger. “See?” he said, ” It’s because she’s sick.”
“Oh, it’s fine for white kids who’re sick to touch black babies,” you said, “but not black babies touching white kids! She got some nerve!”
I saw it enrage you when he told me he understood, not to worry, and waved you off. He told me that, even though you argued with him about it, putting the sins of every white woman on my shoulders.
I felt unjustly accused. I was being called racist, when I’m not anti-any race. I’m just anti-germs.
I thought about how perceptions and experiences can be like crap-colored glasses, and totally skew how we see the world, and therefore reality. I sat there for the rest of our journey, and was sad.
And as we were leaving the train, I thought what a shame it was. You’re not going to see those great photos of your girls.