Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Few Word About Sean Bell

The Q train took what felt like forever to arrive this afternoon. Surprisingly, I was able to find a seat. Along with the saxophonist who thinks he’s an alien, I rode home with a man whose voice was too loud. I may be wrong, but I believe people who speak too loudly are self-important and they function under the mistaken belief that everyone within earshot should have the benefit of their wisdom. Occasionally, one comes across a saxophonist alien, and on that rare occasion one may want to listen. But this particular day, the alien was drowned out.

“The last celebrity sighting I had was last week. It was Al Sharpton.” Now I wouldn’t consider Al Sharpton much of a celebrity sighting in New York City, so I was intrigued. “I don’t know what was going on, but there were television cameras set up everywhere.”

The man’s traveling companion spoke, though at a polite volume. “He made a lot of appearances after the Sean Bell verdict. Maybe that was it.”

“I don’t like to comment when I haven’t seen the whole legal proceeding, but it couldn’t have been racist if he was shot by a black cop. And anyway, when you’re dead you’re dead, whether there are 40 bullets or one bullet."

The silence hung in the air. I watched the young black woman who was pretending to be asleep dart glances at him. There was a black or Latino man who was also pretending to sleep. He seemed to smile coyly with his eyes open only enough to watch. I stared ahead while I visibly shook my head in dismissal. I thought about confronting the man but I was too tired to start an argument with a complete stranger. And somehow a confrontation would break the subway code of minding your own business.

“I respect the police. They’ve never done anything to me. I mean, I know I am a privileged white man and everything . . .”

The first words of confrontation almost escaped my mouth. But at that moment he stopped talking. The train lumbered in to Prince Street station, he gave his friend a light kiss on the cheek, she got off the train, and the torture ended.

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