I have a confession to make: I racially profile people on the subway. Now, before you start judging me and call me a horribly racist person, hear me out.
When I’m on the N train headed into Manhattan, I’m often tired as a mother of two young children. Usually, it’s crowded so I do whatever it takes to strategize in order to get a seat on the train. Here’s what goes through my mind: Canal Street is coming up. It’s likely that an Asian person who is currently sitting down will get off the train at Canal Street. The reason being that Canal Street is the center of Chinatown and one of these people could possibly be heading to this predominantly Asian neighborhood.
So (and this is going to sound awful admitting this) I stand near an Asian person that I think may be getting off the train at Canal Street. I hold the pole and carefully (not too obviously) look at them and see if they are holding their bag or if they look like they might be getting ready to exit the train so I can quickly take their seat.
Let me clarify something, this has very little to do with the fact that this person is Asian. The only reason that I do this is to get a seat. I have many friends who are from varying Asian backgrounds and I love them all.
Getting a seat on the train in New York City requires animalistic instincts. We are no longer complex human beings once those MTA doors open to let us on the train. We are reduced to our primal urges. One of the first animal instincts that exists is survival.
For me, part of surviving on the train is resting my tired body and soul. I’m going to do whatever it takes to be able to ease my weary bones.
I have been ashamed that I do this for quite some time, until the other day when I confessed this to a friend of mine (Tamara) at a party. Tamara started laughing when I told her this story and said:
“Are you kidding me? I do that too!”
Now, it doesn’t make it right. It just means that this is a thing that some New Yorkers do on the train.
It doesn’t stop with Canal Street though. Let’s take the A train for example. I was discussing this with a Black friend of mine. She said:
“Let’s be real here, if you’re a White person on the A train after Broadway Junction, you are either lost or you’re going to Rockaway Beach.”
Subway racial profiling is a reality. But (for me) it’s all about getting a seat on the train.
I know from experience that the White businessmen are going to get off the two train at Wall Street and I am pretty much guaranteed a seat. So my best bet is to stand and hold the pole next to a White dude holding a briefcase in his lap and assess what the likelihood is that he will get off the train soon.
What I’m saying here is that racial profiling on the subway in New York exists. Does that make it right? Of course it doesn’t make it right!
What would be even worse is if you got angry that you judged wrong and the person who you thought was getting off the train at Canal Street or Broadway Junction stayed on. That would be wrong.
I cannot be the only person who thinks this way. But, again, I feel a sense of shame for thinking it. It’s not right and it’s a sign that there is something wrong in our society.