THE SKYTRAIN RACIAL COMMENT

A few weeks ago I was on the Skytrain, on my way to play some tennis with a friend. I only had to go two stops, so my ride was going to be quite short. I didn’t bother to even sit down, so I stood in the accordion part of the train, where there’s lots of room to stand. A few feet away from me were a group of about four teenagers, I think it was three girls and a boy. They were on the younger side of their teens, probably 13 or 14 years of age.

They were in the middle of conversation when I got on the train. I wasn’t able to pick up exactly what they were discussing. One of the girls was mentioning either a tattoo or a piece of jewelry I think. The boy teenager piped up and asked if it was “Chinese or Japanese” writing. One of the girls responded in a way that made it seem like it was plainly obvious to everyone what the answer was, so she said, “Of course it’s Japanese, duh!” I really wondered what they were talking about. The boy teenager then responded with:

“Well, I don’t know! It’s all ching-chong, bing-bong to me!”

As soon as he finished saying that, I looked over to him, and he must have noticed this because we made eye contact for about a second. In that long, hanging second as we looked at each other, I wondered how I should respond. I wasn’t really that offended by his comment but at the same time, I thought I shouldn’t let this kid fully get away with it. All I could come up with a very dry and sarcastic, “nice buddy”. The boy heard me and he face changed into this combination of shock and embarrassment. I could tell he was flustered now and he stammered out a weak “sorry”. He looked away and it was getting a bit awkward for the three girls he was with. They had all stopped talking and it seemed like they were really embarrassed by what their friend had said. As more long and uncomfortable (for them) seconds ticked by, the boy couldn’t stand it any more and he walked away quickly towards one of the ends of the Skytrain car. One of his lady friends shuffled her feet for a bit and then also quickly walked away.

Now by this time, I was actually pretty amused by the whole thing. Though what he said was probably inappropriate while in the presence of strangers, I admit that I am not without a sense of humour and I’ve made similar comments while joking. Now, there’s a big difference between what he did and I how joke. I make the comments while amongst friends (usually Asian) and everyone knows I’m joking. He said that while in public, surrounded by people who have no idea who you are or what context you’re saying things in.

Anyways, I was pleased that he had reacted in such a sheepish manner after I called him out for the comment and that he blurted out a nervous apology. It appeared to me that he maybe had learned a lesson here. The train was pulling into my destination and while it was doing so, one of the remaining young ladies turned to me and said, “I’m apologize on behalf of my friend, he’s a bit of an idiot.” I thought that was incredibly nice and mature of her. I smiled and told her, “Thanks but don’t worry about it, I was kinda messing with him.”

I’ve seen and heard other teenagers do and say way more terrible things, so in comparison, this was a very minor thing. Overall, these seemed to decent and good kids, especially the one young lady who spoke to me. I just hope that boy learned to be more aware of his surroundings when joking around like that.

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