Current Events

BACK OF THE BUS

Do you ever see something so horrifically tragic that you just sort of laugh?

Not a genuine, joyous laugh, but more of an astonished, incredulous outburst. A noise that kind of tumbles from your lips and falls flat on to the floor because it’s not funny.- but it’s so absurdly un-funny that it’s actually hilarious. That- and you don’t know how else to respond.

The last time I can remember laughing like this was on Mercer County Community College Field after getting scored on four consecutive times by Lawrenceville in the Mercer County Tournament Semi-Final Game. My teammate and I just looked at each other and started cracking up. Not because it was funny, but because it was tragic. We felt a little bit hopeless, and sought humor in that. It felt good to laugh, even though we were losing the most important game of the season. It was relieving, because despite getting our butts kicked, at least we had each other; at least we had our team.

I think that’s how the black kids at PHS are going to feel tomorrow, when this picture has already been seen by all of us, and by all of our classmates. We’ll laugh and roll our eyes and mumble, *sigh,* “White People,” beneath our breath and move on with our lives.

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“I’m on the bus with a bunch of niggers, help”- Princeton High School Student
We’ll do this easily, as though we’d been practicing- because quite frankly, we have. We practice every time one of our peers says something offensive or our teacher looks our way when discussing slavery. We practice when people assume we got into college solely because of affirmative action, and feel comfortable to remind us of that fact right to our face. We practice when we’re the first to get into trouble and the last to be remembered; when we’re skimmed over and misrepresented. We’ve got practice. We’re good.

And yet, despite our years of seasoning, we will not be okay. Normalization of bigotry does not equate justification of its existence- whether that be in school, at work or, yes, on the bus.

I’m saying something right now, just as I have before and as I will continue to do in the future because this is wrong. It is hurtful and astonishing to see one of our peers so violently shaken by the presence of black people that she had to send out an SOS to her friends.

Not only the fact that she’s calling us niggers- that’s old news- and not that she felt comfortable posting it on social media- also old news- but the fact that she genuinely felt displeasure in the utter presence of black kids. That’s terrifying to me. To see that there are people, my peers who can’t stand me, or people who look like me, purely because we’re black, scares the living daylights out of me.

I thought we were moving on. I thought this was all over, that the racists were dying out. I didn’t think about the back of the bus until this girl promptly reminded me that’s exactly where I belonged. And now, as I think about it incessantly, I can’t help but laugh.

14 thoughts on “BACK OF THE BUS”

  1. An exceptional article that speaks volumes to the internal conditions African American children face daily within the Princeton School System, which for many is challenging to believe and face, thank you for lifting your voice.

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  2. Back of the Bus . . . shocking, sickening, beyond troubling. And in no way, NO WAY, is this remotely funny. It is tragic. Jamaica, you are doing the world a great justice by speaking out. Change doesn’t happen if we keep quiet and accept things as they are.

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  3. An extremely well-written and thoughtful article about a profoundly thoughtless and hateful action. Thanks, jamaicaponder, for so eloquently giving voice to the disgust I felt when I heard of this incident. Shameful!

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  4. Perspective. Funny or tragic, laugh or cry………I grew up in Princeton in the 1960 & 1970’s and my mother taught school for 15 years in Princeton public schools and what I can say is that the back of the bus starts the row behind the driver and that in the back of bus I rode to school there was an emergency exit that the kids in the middle didn’t have. I made the most of just being on the bus…..some of my relatives didn’t get to even go on the bus……..(we lost to Lawrenceville, too, in the 1970’s, some things haven’t changed) Thanks for speaking up.

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  5. Thank you Jamaica for bringing to light the ongoing racism that plagues our community and that has been denied. .So disheartening that the PHS student thought she could express her thoughts with impunity. Let’s see what comes as the result of the powerful response by the school superintendent–no doubt inspired in part by your own powerful response.

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  6. Jamaica, it’s really not your place to call people out. If you have issues with people and what they say, bring it to authorities and have them take care of it. There’s no need to do this stunt to bring attention to yourself or your blogs/websites. Although you technically have the right to do so, it is morally incorrect and makes you look very despicable. I thought you’d have learned after writing what you wrote last year, but apparently not.

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    1. On the contrary, it is her freedom to do just that and place her thoughts, feelings, and comments in a public forum. What you may do it, stop doing what you just accused her of doing. Voicing one’s perspective is a part of the Fifth Amendment – freedom of speech. It is easy to stand back and watch in silence; however, your silence will not protect you and one day you will be in a situation. I pray someone calls your situation out because it could make a difference in your life.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Who are you to decide who is “morally incorrect” here, God? Criticism of her piece is fine, but when you attack the author personally and say she “looks very despicable”, you’re a joke.

      Calling a bigot out on their bigotry has always been a righteous act. There is nothing for “an authority” to do here, as what the PHS student wrote is completely allowable as non-threatening hate speech protected by the 1st amendment.

      Keep taking note of injustice where you see it and don’t be afraid to speak your mind ever Jamaica

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    3. How is her piece morally incorrect? In no way does she look morally despicable. YOU look like a real a**hole, though. You must know it, too, or you’d have signed your name to this ridiculous statement.

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