Melton Bennett is a resident of Cumming, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. As a white man living in the metropolitan Atlanta area, Melton had some thoughts to share on the topic of race—specifically the ones he had as he rode the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, or MARTA, train from his mostly white neighborhood in the suburbs through the black part of town and down to the airport.
Bennett wrote “On the Red Line: A Daily Racial Transformation on MARTA” as part of a series the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is doing called “Re: Race, an AJC Conversation,” a “race reporting project which is dedicated to covering both the tensions and the opportunities created by racial and ethnic change in Atlanta and Georgia.” According to AJC, Bennett “responded to a request to readers from the AJC to talk about a time when they felt like an outsider.”
For Bennett, that time was the day he rode MARTA and took the scenic route from his white neighborhood to the airport.
I’m not sure how many editors laid eyes on this piece before it was published, but if the goal of AJC’s project is to show how tone-deaf and insulting white people can be when they make observations about black people, they hit the mark with this one.
“Taking the MARTA train from the mostly white northern suburbs down to the airport captures a cross section of the racial make up, and divide, that exists in Atlanta,” Bennett begins.
And then this:
As my fellow white passengers and I pull out of North Springs station, we add more white passengers at the next few stations as we pull toward Buckhead. As we enter the heart of the city, African-Americans begin entering the train, and at Five Points, the racial makeup of the train has flipped to predominantly African-American.
Uh-oh. The blacks have entered. Bennett notes that the blacks are kind enough to only look for seats next to other blacks, and the whites do the same by looking for seats next to other whites, but Bennett is quick to note the discomfort of white passengers “who think the black kid dressed like a gang member is going to sit next to them, and then the sigh of relief as he passes by.”
To Bennett, the difference between the people who got on when he got on and the people getting on in the city is simple: rap minstrel shows on the train, “replete with phrases about violence, sex and race.”
The language changes, with poor grammar and offensive profanity being expelled by these groups of passengers, speaking loudly to be heard by everyone, almost as if they must exhibit some cultural difference to a captive audience to make sure they are seen and heard.
The behavior can seem aggressive, with the occasional comment from one of the African-Americans, “Man, we gotta chill. These crackers don’t like that [expletive].” I absolutely feel like an outsider. There is nothing I can say. There is nothing I can do.
Those crazy blacks, I tell you! Shucking and jiving on the train. Rapping and being all loud with their cuss words, daring to call white people “crackers” right where they can hear them! This is insane! Where are the good, upstanding blacks who would never do this in public? Don’t they ride the train? Is the train only full of the kind of stereotypical blacks you see in rap videos? Don’t any normal blacks go to work on MARTA? What is happening here?
Good thing Bennett is there. The white savior in him wants to educate these blacks and let them know there’s a better way.
“Inside, I want to tell them that we are all alike, that sharing constructive conversations and experiences is what builds a bridge to understanding,” Bennett writes. “The hard-core profanity, the unsavory references to females and the derogatory names for white people just force the bridge to be longer.”
It’s a good thing Bennett kept his mouth shut, because one of those wayward darkies might have taken it the wrong way and punched him in the face like he was a Richard Spencer look-alike or something.
Bennett tells us that “this does not represent all African-Americans” (thank God! I was starting to get worried!) in the city or even on the train, but it is a common-enough experience on his MARTA journey.
“As I trek down the city, I see the racial differences, see the divides, hear the pain in the rap songs and conversations,” our Negro-whisperer hood anthropologist tells us.
“As the the train crosses Auburn Avenue, I often wonder what MLK Jr would like to have experienced on the MARTA train in 2017,” Bennett muses at the end of his piece.
For starters, I’m sure Martin Luther King Jr. would like for white people to stop invoking his name as some sort of Negro-whispering tool used to tame black people when they aren’t doing or saying or being exactly what you want them to be at any given time. Plus, y’all killed him anyway, so bringing up his name all the time now like he’s the black savior or some shit is just fucking ridiculous at this point and, not to mention, insulting.
If this is the sort of drivel that can be expected to come out of the AJC “race conversation,” they can keep it.