2001-07-07 / Letters

Green Line Racism?

Green Line Racism?

Dear Editor,

Just minutes ago, a racist Green Line driver dared me to complain about her. Far be it from me to disappoint her. The bus was a Roxbury-bound Q22. When I complained to the driver, a Hispanic woman, about a teenager blasting his radio, she lied, saying, "I can’t hear anything." I’m hard of hearing, yet I could hear the radio loud and clear from the driver’s position.

But the driver was typical of the Green Line, which—if you’re white—is like something out of the Jim Crow South. In seven years as a rider, I have found that aside from a handful of sweethearts of all races, and a few fair-to-middling drivers, the Green Line is home to a veritable rogues’ gallery of black and Hispanic racists. But our diversity is our strength: there are also many white bums, malingerers, and malcontents. And I say this, having twice put my life on the line defending non-black Q22 drivers from threats by racist black passengers.

I have seen consecutive, white drivers of Brooklyn-bound Q35’s skip all local stops from 8 to 8:30 a.m., ignoring waiting passengers. My wife has heard supervisors order drivers over the radio to do that. While I have experienced black drivers loudly playing radios, and talking away on cell phones while driving, my wife once saw a radio-playing white driver ignore a non-white rider’s request to turn it off. And the nastiness is integrated—black, Hispanic, and white drivers can be nasty to white riders—and black and Hispanic drivers can be nasty to black riders. And on the coldest day of 1999, Christmas Eve, four or five Q35 buses sat at 116th Street for a full hour, from 4-5 p.m., in an apparent work "slowdown."

I have had black drivers late at night, when I was the only white on board, ignore my rings. One then lectured me, insisting I hadn’t rung, when I told him he’d missed my stop. One such black driver, seeing me grading student papers opposite him, turned off ALL the lights. When he saw the only other rider, a black man, taking off his sweater, he turned them on without being asked. When the black passenger said he didn’t need them, the driver turned off the lights again.

The worst thing about the Green Line is, every paying passenger (many don’t pay) pays twice: once through his fare and again through his taxes. For while ostensibly "private," the Green Line – like several other large bus companies (including Jamaica and Academy) owned by the same man – is funded entirely by taxpayer subsidies. The subsidies must stop. Let this man vie for passengers’ fares, and we’ll see how long he tolerates vicious drivers.

MARK RUSTOW


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