Thursday, February 18, 2010

Public transportation fight videos: a case study in urban race relations?

If activity on YouTube is any indication, the San Francisco public transportation system seems to be a hot bed for conflict, and the fact that the city's residents are a tech-savvy crowd means that incidents are regularly caught on camera. A quick search on YouTube turns up lots of results. A new video uploaded on Tuesday already has a whopping 1.6 million views at the time of this post.

Last fall, this video of two women fighting on the Stockton route of the San Francisco MUNI (the Bay Area's bus system) went viral practically overnight. It has 870,000 views to date.

Several altercations between the police officers and passengers of the Bay Area's underground railway system, BART, have also been video taped and uploaded to YouTube. Most recently, this violent scuffle between a rowdy BART rider and a BART policeman ended in the two shattering a glass window, badly cutting themselves. Most notoriously, the fatal shooting of a young man named Oscar Grant, whose death was captured on numerous cell phone cameras, spread quickly around the web and YouTube became a virtual town hall in which users expressed their anger and pain and shared their tributes to the fallen Grant.

The video posted yesterday shows two grown men -- one white, one black -- arguing in the back of a MUNI bus in Oakland, California. Things escalate and quickly turn physical while another passenger documents the whole thing on camera. Viewer discretion is advised as some strong language is used and violence breaks out towards the end.

Racial tension appears to have played a key role in this dispute, and many believe that the Oscar Grant shooting in Oakland also revealed racial prejudice; Grant was a young black man who was unarmed and appeared to be doing nothing wrong, and the officer who shot him was white. Many of the response videos uploaded to YouTube questioned whether racism was in play. The video that shows the two women - one Chinese, one black - attacking each other over a free bus seat also makes you cringe; there's so much anger bottled up that suddenly erupts.

Those who have ridden on a public bus as it transports people through the different neighborhoods of San Francisco may have experienced the unique mixing of cultures and classes on public transportation, perhaps unlike any other social forum. We continue to watch as members of the community decide over and over again to document these conflicts and upload them to YouTube so others can watch.

In San Francisco unique in the number of incidents and/or the frequency with which they are captured on camera? How often are racial tensions to blame? Do skirmishes like these happen on public transportation systems everywhere?

We're curious to hear from you.

Update: The older white man featured in the latest MUNI bus video is apparently the same man being tasered by the police in this YouTube video at an Oakland A's baseball game, reports the San Francisco Examiner.


Anonymous said...

Americans are crazy and have a long history of violence. This is not surprising.

This isn't a white or black thing. This is an American thing. You just can't look at the broader context. This would never happen in a place like Canada. Ever. Yet it's attached to the United States.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure someone's head was cut off on public transit in Canada in 2008......while he was sleeping!

Anonymous said...

The fight itself was not about race. It was about a trained fighter getting a cheap adrenaline high from taunting an out of shape fool into throwing the first punch and then legally beating him up.

On the other hand the black girl who filmed the fight is a racist, referring to the white man as whitey and pinky. She has a second video of the incident up and has it categorized under Comedy in an attempt to maximize its views.

Imagine for one moment the roles had been reversed and a white man had gone to the front of the bus and struck a black man while a white girl shouted the N-word in encouragement and filmed it. There would be organized demonstrations on Oakland's streets. You would not have allowed the video to remain up on YouTube.

It is possible that every ethnicity in San Francisco (other than white) feels that it is entitled to a golden payday every time a member of that ethnicity is involved in an altercation with a member of the white ethnic group, even if the non-white person instigated the conflict. That puts a bounty on the head of every white person in Oakland.

The black girl who encouraged the black man to attack the white man is still chasing her golden payday (that she believes she is entitled to) by using every trick in the YouTube book to market her videos. She was involved in incitement to racial violence and theft of the 67 year old man's property, yet she is still chasing a reward for her actions.

Anonymous said...

The only thing unique about this video is that it was not immediately removed from YouTube. There are hundreds of fight videos on sites that are rated 18+. In effect the YouTube employee who decided to ignore YouTube policy because of his personal feelings about the racial tension in Oakland made this a news story, not the actual content of the video.

Anonymous said...

What if both of them are white or both of them are black. We wont be discussing this topic right?

Anonymous said...

The much older white man got up and sat another place - the younger black man approached him multiple times and then the black man hit him - the black man got beatup and he deserved it.

Anonymous said...

America is a disturbed society, eversince!

SassysOpinion said...

Both were out of control with their speaking from the beginning. True as it was the black man was angry because of racial prejudice his whole life and lashed out with violent words. They both misunderstood each other. The white man was angry for constantly being harassed all his life too.

It became volatile especially with the camera person egging it on with her comments and then thinking her video was enough to press charges.

The black man did not hit the white man he merely touched him. The black man could have punched him right in the face but didn't. The black man did not hurt the white man any more than Malika Calhoun hurt the police officer. The vengeance exacted was disproportional to what both this black man and Malika did.

We can never bring about peace when we try to overcome perceived evil with evil. Both white men justified their beatings of people who did not fight back with unjust accusations of self defense. How many other people has that white man beat up? What he did was wrong.

His shirt said, "I AM" on the back. Whose name is that but God's? He did not turn the other cheek. As a matter of fact he provoked the black man with his words of violence and not overcoming evil with love.

Google SassysOpinion and choose me to lead the people because I AM! 40 acres and a mule for the descendants of the slaves. This is black history month. For Emmit Till, Bobby Hutton, Harriett Tubman, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, and the rest.

Anonymous said...

He left his bag behind.

Anonymous said...

It was sad to hear the (strange) racist taunts from the young black girl who took the video. What had the incident to do with her that provoked her own racist reaction?

I am a Chinese man born in the UK who has experienced racism at the hands of white people since a child. Taunting and intimidation. However, as I grew up, I experienced less and less of this from white people and none from whites in London over a 12 year period. (I aa not talking about racism in job selection and things said behind my back. I wouldn't know about that. But none of the intimidating taunting.) Every race is racist.....but the English have taken it to the extreme the other way where they are afraid to address race specific issues for fear of being labelled a racist.

But I have noticed over the past a very disturbing trend over the past say 10 years. This is open and blatent racism towards me from black people, not Africans, but Afro Carribeans. I broke up a fight between a black girl and a white (the black girl was clearly the aggressor) and 10 minutes later was approached by a black girl (extremely attractive and tall and well dressed....I really fancied her!). She was extremely polite, speaking in her London accent saying "Excuse me....." Suddenly she launched into a raging Jamaican patois: "Ya stupid Paki. Why you wanna help the white girl. She'll kick yer ass." I have seen multiple occasions of blacks speaking aggressively to Asians (ie pakistanis and Indians) in this fake Jamaican accent (these young people have probably never been to Jamaica in their lives). I have a white friend involved in a car crash who was rather curiously called a "Paki". I have been mugged by a black guy in London at knifepoint, my dad got mugged by black guy too but my dad hit him and my brother did a flying kick into him.

In London, young blacks are associated with rage, hostility, violence, street gangs, robberies and gang rape. I know that there will be black people calling me a racist etc myself. Listen, I don't round taunting people and putting stupid accents to intimidate people. One commentator that I respect (although I don't always share his views ) is the black writer Darcus Howe. He is no Uncle Tom pussy to the white man. Before accusing me of racism, you should see what he has written about black youth in London.

I have a lot of black friends from London. They themselves tell me that they are afraid of black youth. Especially at night. I had a lot of friends at Uni who were African. I used to think that blacks were superior to other races. They are clearly physically superior. You only need to look at Premiership footballers and sprinters to realise that. So if (sorry to be classist) middle class blacks are equally intelligent, then they must be superior? That was my reasoning.

But I am really disappointed that from taking the moral high ground in the 60's with the civil liberties movement, a large proportion of the black community have themselves become associated (and through the way they conduct themselves deliberately perpetutate this.....because they get "respect") with a lethal cocktail of racism and violence. Yet their community leaders are the first to condemn others for racism!

If you deny that your community has a problem, you can never solve it. You can never get to the root of the problem.

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