The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) dedicated the June issue of Passenger Transport, an APTA publication, to racial inequality and the July edition to Pride Month. Here’s what METRO Operator Rachel submitted:
Bringing People Together as Equals
“Public transit reaches all types of racial and ethnic groups. Public transit serves all types of people for different reasons and brings together people from all walks of life, as one. As a black bus driver, I have dealt with some passengers being racist toward myself and co-workers. With these challenges, we, as bus drivers, have to be careful how we deal with this situation. If we respond or handle it the wrong way, then there is a possibility that we may lose our job.
“At METRO RTA of Akron, OH, all bus drivers are required to take a class titled ‘Bridges out of Poverty’ when hired. The training taught me to realize how different we all really are by the different ways each of us were raised by our families. It was very interesting to me to see in real life how different our upbringings were as co-workers. A way for public transportation to address the systematic racism problems that are around us, every day, is to understand what these differences cause. As an example, white individuals cannot understand racism on a daily basis because it has become the status quo. There needs to be continued and expanded dialogue and training available to help individuals have a better understanding of all our unique differences.
“A paragraph in a book called PowerNomics by Dr. Claud Anderson provides a great definition of racism. Dr. Anderson states that ‘Racism is a wealth and power-based competitive relationship between blacks and non-blacks. The sole purpose of racism is to support and ensure that the white majority and its ethnic subgroups continue to use blacks as a mean to produce wealth and power.’ That is why the bus boycott in Montgomery, AL, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was successful when black passengers decided not to use the bus system until they were able to sit wherever they pleased. Public transportation needs to keep promoting the message that everyone is on equal footing and has a fair shot at the opportunities provided for employees.
“Another good step public transportation can take to address systematic racism is to post signs recognizing programs and celebrations of different ethnic groups, such as Kwanzaa, Juneteenth and others, and serve as a sponsor to racial and ethnic events in the community.”
Not Tolerating Being Defined by Others
“The Stonewall riots in 1969 were demonstrations by members of the LGBTQ community in response to a police raid of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City, in June of that year. The riots had to happen to bring attention to the treatment and brutality toward the LGBTQ community. Their treatment was solely based on their lifestyle and who they were.
“This year, some major steps are being taken to provide equal rights to the LGBTQ community. On June 15, the Supreme Court ruled that a landmark civil rights law protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination, handing the movement Not Tolerating Being Defined by Others for LGBTQ equality a long-sought and unexpected victory. In layman terms, it simply means that an employer is not allowed to fire a person based on their sexuality.
“With myself being a lesbian, I sometimes feel like I am faced with the double whammy. I deal with racial inequity as a black woman and with being a lesbian. But I refuse to let other people define me as being less than them; we are all equal.
“METRO RTA of Akron, OH, my employer, does its best to work on and address equality among its workforce and the community. I have never felt from management any unfair treatment related to my sexuality, nor would I allow it. I believe that the public transit system can help with community awareness about LGBTQ issues. This could be done by sponsoring different community events, posting information showing support, and listing community events by advertising inside and outside of buses, and to have literature available in the transit center from support groups during Gay Pride events and also throughout the year. All transit authorities’ providers should keep the doors of communication open with the LGBTQ community.
“I often refer to a quote that I really like from the late actor Paul Newman: ‘I’m a supporter of gay rights. And not a closet supporter, either. From the time I was a kid, I have never been able to understand attacks upon the gay community. There are so many qualities that make up a human being… by the time I get through with all the things that I really admire about people, what they do with their private parts is probably so low on the list that it is irrelevant.'”