One of the things I found most surprising and fascinating when I was in Bostwana is that the manikins at the malls we went to (there are many very nice malls in Gabarone) are quite different than the ones we have in the States or the UK. Instead of straight hips & flat butts they have the pleasantly curvy figure more celebrated in Africa. I thought it was awesome! Wish I had taken a picture…
At the next stop, the guy next to me got up and left the train. A good-looking black guy looked at me and I wondered what he was thinking. Suddenly I noticed that there were no other white people in my line of sight. I turned around and there were no other white people on the train at all, except one man sitting on the other side of the isle from me.
I sat next to the only two white people on the train. I hadn’t even realized it.
Then I started wondering: did I make that decision subconsciously, or was it a legitimate coincidence? I certainly didn’t mean to sit next to the only white people. If I had realized it, I would have chosen NOT to sit next to the only white people. I couldn’t even believe it.
Some of my very favorite, closest friends are African or of African descent, and I know what my decision looked like, what it said to the others on the train. I confirmed a stereotype in a small, subtle way… that white people are afraid of or do not like black people.
Whether or not this stereotype is often true is not the point. There is plenty of evidence to suggest it. Hanging out with close African American friends when I lived in Atlanta years ago I learned this first-hand. I want to be someone who is intentional about changing the stereotype, and here I am confirming it in my own little way. I am neither the first nor the only one to notice my choice of seat.
Although I didn’t make my seating choice intentionally, I’m sorry I made the choice I did at all. If given the same opportunity again, I plan to choose a different seat. And I pray that the next white person who gets on a train with the same passengers will make a different choice as well.
Praise God that since Martin Luther King, Jr. said those words transition has continued to occur. But it is not done yet. Lord let me be a continuing part of the solution, not a perpetrator of the problem — even through ignorance or being oblivious.