What Color is Racism? [OPINION]
We have seen evidence of discrimination based on skin color in criminal justice, business, the economy, housing, health care and the media, but at a bus stop on Martha's Vineyard?
Yes, racism has no geographical boundaries, and a local man knows this firsthand.
Kevin Brooks, a New Bedford barber, regularly takes the boat over to Martha's Vineyard. Recently, Mr. Brooks was told he couldn't ride the Route 13 bus on Beach Road near Oakdale Drive in Edgartown because of the color of his skin.
Emotionally agitated, Brooks called the Martha's Vineyard Times to tell them a driver for the Vineyard Transit Authority refused to pick him up at the bus stop, as he was returning from a day's work, because he was black.
Brooks tried to flag down the bus, but it drove past him. It was filled to capacity, but the driver didn't post that on the marquee and didn't communicate this to Brooks. Instead, the transit bus just drove on passing him by. Brooks had to catch the 5:20 p.m. ferry out of Oak Bluffs, so he had to call an Uber that arrived shortly after the bus did at the ferry terminal.
What happened next is like something out Selma in the 60s. Brooks spotted the bus driver and asked why he passed him by. The driver started with something about how he forgot to post that his bus was filled to capacity, but that didn't go over. After Brooks kept pressing him , the bus driver shot back, "Well, it's because you are black!" It's on video footage, so there's no refuting it.
Brooks told the paper that he's been called everything under the sun, but this incident hit him differently--and hard. He felt so belittled and disrespected that he couldn't sleep that night. He was shaken emotionally and wanted to get his story out there.
This New Bedford barber seems like a nice guy. He said just wants to provide for his family and really didn't want the bus driver to lose his job. But Martha's Vineyard Transit has a zero, zilch, nada tolerance policy for this kind of learned hatred.
Like Mr. Brooks, this story hit me hard, too. Babies aren't born with racism. It is learned somehow , and then it is a personal decision to hold on to it. And as for that fired bus driver, I hope the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination gets his address!
Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.