Riding the midnight train from San Francisco to Palo Alto the other night, a man sat across from me and politely asked if I was expecting anyone to take the seat next to mine. When I said no, he stretched his legs out, placed his sneakered feet on the seat and proceeded to take a nap.
My blood boiled. Not with the anticipation that I was going to have to wake him up when it was time for me to get off the train (which I did). Not because he was old enough (50 plus) to know that his feet, no matter how clean they seemed, did not belong on the “furniture.”
My blood boiled because he could enjoy the privilege of resting easy because he was white.
I should add that he was white, apparently middle class and well groomed; no one would mistake him for a homeless person in search of a night’s shelter.
My blood boiled because had he been a black or Latino man of any age, well-groomed or not, had he been a passenger on a New York subway rather than Caltrain, he would likely have been arrested and carted off to jail.
A New York Times article “Relax, if you want, but don’t put your feet up,” published earlier this month, precipitated my rage. The article chronicles the New York Police Department’s practice of arresting passengers who take up more than one seat, deliberately or inadvertently, or block the movement of the doors. Continue reading