Do I risk humiliation and offer the black sister my seat?
I’m on the number 45 bus heading north on Kipling to Steeles. It’s 6:30 pm. We’ve just crossed Eglinton West, and the bus is filling up. I’m sitting, reading my four-buck magazine, when this woman climbs onto the bus carrying a plastic shopping bag and a sack over her shoulder.
All the seats are taken. By happenstance or serendipity, she ends up standing beside me. And my dilemma begins.
Do I keep my seat or give it to her?
She’s not an elderly woman — early 30s, I estimate — and I’m thinking that if I offer her the seat, I could be accused of indulging in the chivalry of a bygone era.
My moral compass is indicating it would be the right and proper thing to do, what a grown man is even expected to do — I think.
But then I wonder if, when I make the offer, she’ll resent me for my paternalistic presumptuousness and perhaps — oh, embarrassment — ridicule me in front of the other passengers.
But if I don’t give her my seat, she’ll think I’m a schmuck, and the middle-aged folks at the back will surely agree.
And she is carrying two bags. Of course, they don’t seem all that heavy, and she seems to be managing just fine. But then again, she’s a black woman carrying two bags, and I’m supposedly a conscious black man, so what does it say about me if I don’t recognize the significance of this moment? Or if I’m seen to be disrespecting a “sister” in front of all of these white folks?
I’m also thinking about my own blood sisters, and how if I offered them a seat in a similar situation they’d say, “Kiss my ass, Adrian!” and my mom would chastise me all the way home for my condescension.
In the end, I submit to the voice. I succumb and bravely tender the offer. She smiles but demurely declines. And I, confused and mildly humiliated, stick my head back in my mag and try to lose myself in an article on the Human Genome Project.