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City Bus

Rejected to Ride a Bus Only Because I was Asian

Story by "Amy"

Inspired work: Color (Artwork by Kenji Miyazawa)​

When I first learned about United States as a kid, they taught me that this country was a “mixed bowl of salad”. The first time I set foot on this country was the year Barack Obama became the president. The idea of equality seemed real and I thought that America is really a country of freedom. However, after many years of living here, I started to feel that the US is not a salad bowl; rather, it is a plate you get from a buffet with distinct dividers, where each ingredient sits in its own place without combining or melting into each other. 

My worst and most traumatic experience involving racial discrimination I still remember vividly. I was about to take a statewide bus trip after participating in a piano competition, on my way returning to my school. With a small carry-on luggage, I waited anxiously for the upcoming long-distance trip that would take approximately 8 hours. Prior to boarding, an Amtrak bus driver was checking every passenger’s ID. The driver was white, tall, and had a large figure, looking like he was a character from a cowboy movie with a big ten-gallon hat.

“Please hand me your boarding ticket with your ID,” he said. 

I handed him my boarding ticket with my student ID. Then the driver immediately said, “This is a fake ID, right? I do not believe this is real.”

I argued with him and trying to convince him that the ID was real. I told him that I even checked with the Amtrak customer center before the trip to make sure that student ID would be enough to prove my identity. 

The driver called the customer center right in front of me.

“I have this Asian girl who has only student ID with her, is this really allowed? Also, her ID looks totally fake. It looks a credit card or some sort, is it okay that I just deny her entry?” 

I was crying and kept repeating that if I missed this bus there were no way to go back to my school. The driver was not interested to hear my voice even a little, and my attitude made him angrier as we continued to argue. Finally, he screamed at me:

“Asians are the best at making fake products! All the fake goods come from China, so how can I believe anything that any Asian says?!”

After 30 minutes had passed, the other passengers started to feel anxious and yelled at the driver to move. The driver closed the door and was about to leave from the bus station. I was banging the door as hard as I could while crying and screaming. The driver finally gave up and let me enter the vehicle, and I was relieved for a moment, but this was still only the beginning... 

As soon as the bus departed, the driver made an announcement loudly to all the passengers, 

“EMERGENCY, EMERGENCY. There is a suspicious Asian girl with us on this bus today, who does not have her legal ID. Please be careful and be mindful that if anything happens, please report to us and we will stop the vehicle immediately. Thank you for your understanding and corporation.”

The driver repeated the statement for three times, and everyone on the bus looked frightened as if I were a terrorist. I was completely innocent, but they all glared at me and gave me dirty looks, like a monster that they want to vanish. Then soon after, the driver called the Amtrak headquarter and talked loudly just to make sure I could hear him. 

“After this bus ride, this suspicious Asian girl is planning to transfer to take the next train. Please be careful, make sure you won’t let her ride the next train because she only carried her fake ID.”

It was only a few hours on this bus, but it felt like it lasted forever. As I was about to leave the bus, the driver said: “I wonder when your lies are going to be revealed. Good luck on your journey.”

At that moment, I hated this driver for more than anything. And I hated the fact that I was Asian. I kept thinking in my head: “Why do I have to suffer so much just because my skin is yellow?” I was so helpless and disappointed in myself.

As I had expected, people stopped me at the entrance of the next train station. My school was small and private, and so I did not blame them even if they did not know its name, yet no one was even willing to listen to my voice. How hard I tried to convince them… No one was willing to help me, and I felt so lonely.  

Once again, the talk with station staff went on for more than 30 minutes. As I was just about to give up, all sudden there was an African-American lady interrupted our conversation.

“My son also went to the same school as hers. The ID looks exactly the same as my son’s and of course this is real. Just let her go; she is not lying.”

After her voice, they immediately believed her without any doubt and finally let me go.  

I was shocked at how helpless I was, and how untrustworthy Asians could look to certain people. I would never forget this traumatic event that happened to me and would also never forget the lady’s kindness who saved my life that day. To be honest I was surprised that, considering the racist tendencies some people in America, they valued my word as an Asian person even less than that of an African-American. I strongly hope that no one else would have to suffer this way, and someday I hope that people would stop judging people just based on their skin colors. 

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