Rosa Parks’ Legacy

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority: Reminding white people why they don’t take the bus

Amanda Hess wrote an article for the webzine Atlantic Cities with the provocative title Race, Class, and the Stigma of Riding the Bus in America. Published on July 10 of this year, Hess laments that a phenomenon occurs nationwide: when minority ridership of public transportation increases, negative stereotypes abound and worse “racial stigma against the transportation form compound.”

Well Ms. (or is it Mrs?) Hess, your stereotype and “racial stigma” was recently on full display in Cleveland, when a black female rider of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority bus system became an Internet sensation for taking a right uppercut from a black bus driver [Cleveland bus driver suspended after video shows him punching female rider, FoxNews, by Joshua Rhett Miller, 10-12-12]:

A Cleveland bus driver has been suspended following the surfacing of an online viral video depicting him viciously punching a female passenger, transit officials told The 94-second video — posted on and on — begins with an unidentified woman shouting obscenities at the bus driver. 

The woman then appears to strike the bus driver, who gets up from his seat and approaches her before landing a brutal uppercut that knocks the woman down. 

Just before the haymaker is thrown, someone can be heard saying on the video: “You going on the ground now.” The bus driver, who has been employed by the agency for 22 years, then physically removes the 25-year-old woman and her pink jacket from the bus. She then reboards the bus, where the two briefly continue scuffling as passengers try to end the melee. 

“That’s a [expletive] female,” one passenger shouts. “I don’t care,” the bus driver responds. “She want to be a man, I’m going to treat you like a man.” Mary Shaffer, a spokeswoman for the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, told in a statement that an investigation into the Sept. 18 incident has been launched. “Upon identifying the driver, he was immediately suspended and removed from duty,” the statement read. “His behavior is absolutely unacceptable.” RTA officials apologized to customers for the incident.

Lost in this story is that it was a Cleveland black woman who was last month’s black Internet sensation for bragging about “Obama Phones” that all minorities receive. 

You have to wonder how many of the videos that black people capture with their camera phones come courtesy of the SafeLink “Obama Phone” program….

Regardless, public transportation could work. Obviously, these massive public transportations systems that exist in American cities once transported white people – whose tax dollars made possible the financing and expansion of these systems that they’d eventually abandon – until the routes no longer accommodated this ridership (due to white flight and the desire to keep public transportation from depositing the very people whites were fleeing from into their new suburban communities!). 

And who can forget this story from Cleveland detailing how black people are cited disproportionately for not paying transit fares, drawing the ire of the NAACP and the ACLU [Blacks being ticketed in high numbers for not paying RTA fares in Cleveland, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, 12-10-10]:

Blacks have received a disproportionately high number of citations for not paying Regional Transit Authority fares, a Plain Dealer analysis has found. 

More than 85 percent of the citations for the infraction were issued to them during the past two years, the analysis found. 

By contrast, fewer than 70 percent of the riders on the lines where the citations were handed out are black, RTA spokeswoman Mary McCahon said. 

She could not explain why blacks received a disproportionate number of the citations, but ruled out racism as the cause.

“It’s unfortunate that the statistics come out this way, but there is no profiling,” McCahon said. 

The newspaper looked at the issue after Cleveland NAACP President George Forbes raised concerns earlier this year about an increasing number of young black men being arrested on RTA lines. Forbes said Friday that he learned of the problem from concerned Cleveland Municipal Court judges. 

Data provided by RTA in response to a records request from the newspaper confirmed the judge’s observation. 

Although the data did not contain enough information to determine exact numbers, blacks arrested or cited on RTA lines clearly increased from around 200 in July 2009 to more than 340 in August 2009. 

Since then, at least 260 blacks have been arrested or cited each month. In some months, RTA police have arrested or cited about 500 blacks. In each of those months, blacks accounted for at least 80 percent of the citations or arrests.

The Detroit Corollary on display again: the greater the percentage of black people in a community, the less social trust and social capital exist. Having an honor system for riding public transportation?

Don’t you know that Rosa Parks made her stand on public transportation in Montgomery so black people could ride the bus or light rail for free?

And be free to act in the manner as the black woman did on the bus in Cleveland.

Bitch, get off my bus!” said the black bus driver, a fine representative of the type of employee the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority hires.

Talk about the perfect  reminder of Rosa Parks’ legacy. And just remember: it might have been one of those “Obama Phones” that captured this Great Moment in Black History (GMBH).

Daniel Tosh of Tosh.0 owes SafeLink a cut of his DVD royalties: who knows how many of the videos of Blacks Behaving Badly are courtesy of this program…



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