Etan Thomas Fights Bigotry via Facebook

Hey, random black male reader, has this ever happened to you before? You’ve just finished working a eight, ten or twelve hour day. You’re exhausted but the day really isn’t over yet because you have to take public transportation home. So, you squeeze on a crowded bus, subway or commuter train and scan for an open seat. You have one in sight but you relinquish it to a hard charging senior citizen.

So, right when you’ve resigned yourself to standing on your poor, painful bunions for the duration of the ride you spot a seat in the distance. You walk up and see a woman sitting next to it, a white woman. But race isn’t even remotely on your mind. The only thing you’re thinking about is getting off your feet.”Excuse me, is anyone sitting there?” you politely ask. The woman says someone is sitting there. 

So, you walk off in a huff knowing full well what the real deal is, and it isn’t long  before your feelings are validated. At the next stop a white man gets on and makes his way to the very same seat. He proceeds to sit down. The occupant of the other seat, the white woman, simply smiles and scoots out of the way. A major Black man conundrum presents itself.

Do you say something? If you do there is a high probability the whole thing will be twisted to make you appear like some crazy malcontent. Most in that situation would have no choice but to walk away. These are the types of seemingly minor racial slights that many of us go through regularly. 

Whether it is the sound of someone frantically locking a car door, clutching a purse or rolling up a window, the possibility of ambiguity regarding people performing these actions is lost on many of us and the stench of bigotry, fear and racial prejudice hang in the air like mosquitos in the Jersey meadows. That’s the way it is and a brother living in America is just going to have to suck it up, right?

Not every brother agrees with that assessment. On Friday, former Syracuse standout and NBA shot-blocking specialist  Etan Thomas recounted a story in which bigotry and prejudice where defeated with the power of embarrassment and social media.

Here’s the story recounted via his Facebook post;

Ok so I’m getting on the train and there are no open seats and I ask this lady if I could sit next to her (very politely and I soften my voice as to not frighten her) and she says someone is sitting here. So I go to the next seat. Now, less than 2 mins later a man (who happens to be white) asks if he can sit there and she says why sure let me move my stuff. So I have to say something so I ask ummmmm did you just not want ME to sit next to you ? Were you scared ? Not comfortable with a Black Man sitting next to you ? And she says lol smh don’t pull the race card stuff with me I dated a Black guy in college. So the guy (who was a nice guy) said listen I’ll get up and I said no need I’mma just take this pic and make a Facebook post about it. So then she says did you just take a pic of me ? Well I’m going to tell the conductor that you’re over here illegally taking pics of ppl without their consent. So the conductor came up and said hey Etan Thomas love what you’re doing in the community loved you with the Wizards big Cuse fan man the Knicks sure could use you …. And I said was there something you wanted to tell my man ? And she rolled her eyes smh some ppl I tell ya

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The story has not become a major national story in part because of Thomas notoriety as a former NBA player, philanthropist and member of the media. Hooray! Facebook saves the day, right? While it does provide me with a bit of satisfaction that someone was able to win this tiny little battle, there are Black and Hispanic men all over the country that are forced to swallow this crap in one-on-one encounters with bigotry during their commute on a daily basis.  If only their victories were so swift, satisfying and absolute.  If only…

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