Mental note to self: in addition to pregnant women, strippers, drag queens and homeless people, put bus drivers on the list of folks I will never, ever break tough or talk sassy to. They’re snapping out all over the country, kicking tail and bucking the consequences because they have to know, just like the rest of us, that in the age of the handy dandy camera phone, everybody and their granddaddy has become an on-the-ground reporter. So when they cut the monkey like they’ve been doing so frequently, they will inadvertently go down in YouTube infamy.
The latest installment of public transportation workers gone wild comes courtesy of the MTA system in Baltimore, where a stocky, middle-aged female driver physically fought and gave the business to a young girl on board, allegedly for refusing to turn her music down. “It’s about respect,” the uniformed victor explained to another passenger, who ostensibly asked her why she whooped on that child like she stole something.
Indeed, it is about respect. I don’t condone grown women snapping out and beating the living bejesus out of anybody, much less citizens on the bus, no matter how old they are. I was outraged when Shi’dea Lane was on the receiving end of the upper cut heard around the internet and I was flabbergasted watching this girl get tossed around by a lady old enough to be her mama. I am vehemently opposed to violence against women, no matter who the aggressor is (though the Lane incident also exposed a disappointing fraternity of people—both male and female—who defended Artis Hughes’ notorious punch). But the victims in both cases had something in common: they let nasty attitudes and bad behavior get them tangled up with individuals who preferred to respond with their hands.
I’ve regularly noticed acts of flagrant disrespect among the 25 and under set, and I know you’ve probably noticed it, too. If you haven’t, that means you probably don’t ride the train or the bus or log onto World Star Hip Hop. All you need to do is take a look at another video gone viral, this one also in Baltimore (what’s really good, Charm City?!), where two young, Black girls bully a White substitute teacher. They pluck her. They slap her. They call her a bitch. And all the while, fellow students are laughing, inadvertently egging on their triflingness.
I don’t know how their parents felt when they saw the footage, but I hope it set them to making some changes in their households. Actually, said girls probably need to be pulled out of school until they can act like they have some sense and focus on what they and the kids they were distracting are there to do. And it sure isn’t to make the day a living nightmare for instructors watching over their class. It’s a formula for disaster any time a child can feel so bold and brazen as to physically torment the authority figure in his or her classroom. They’re setting up to become menaces to society. Maybe not in the Caine and O-Dog kind of way, but they won’t be able to respect bosses, cops, judges, and professors, much less senior citizens, city bus drivers or outspoken freelance writers.
Maybe our kids are too coddled. Maybe the advancements so hard-fought for us have made us less about discipline and more about giving them passes for ugly behavior and subpar manners. I know—no maybes about it—that we as a community have stopped having the power to control our children en masse and instead have become afraid to correct one another’s babies. Nobody wants to speak up for fear some raving, crazy-acting parent will make them the unintentional star of America’s next hottest beatdown video. It’s just easier and safer for most of us to bridle our tongues, then talk about how bad these darn kids are when we get out of earshot.
I don’t want to get mollywhopped either. But if I see our kids acting wrong, I’m going to say something. If I see them being disrespectful—to themselves and other people—I’m willing to risk getting chin checked to tell them they’re off base. Out of love. And by all means: I have a 14-year-old daughter and if you see her doing some foolishness, I invite you to lay into her too. Out of love. I work with young people in the church and I’m a mentor in a community program, but I don’t think they’re the kids who need to know that adults are looking out for their best interests. I’m trying to get to these renegade, wanna-be tough ones who don’t necessarily have anyone to answer to. It sounds so idealistic, I know. But it’s worth a shot. Look, they can’t beat us all.