Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I hadn't been planning to mention this, but it turns out I am still very perplexed by it, so I will. The this I am talking about is the fact that most all of the people of African descent here in Lugano seem to sit at the back of the bus. The first time I noticed it about a year ago, fresh off the boat from America, I blushed and looked fervently out the window for the rest of the ride.


It turns out this was not a freak occurrence – it's just the way of the bus here – so I have had ample opportunity to observe, ponder, and adjust to it in the last year. I have managed to tame my easily excitable superego, but I still can't help a faint sense of outrage.  It's pretty much a useless feeling, though; as far as I can tell, there's really no one to direct it at. (And believe me, I have surveilled bus interactions carefully, looking – hoping – expecting – some sort of transgression, but no dice. These Swiss hold their cards, close, man. Saying they keep to themselves might be an understatement. I couldn't even catch a dirty look.) It seems to be a self-imposed segregation. 

But why? Why? There doesn't seem to be an obvious explanation (e.g., they are all friends, the other doors were broken, etc.). Are there metaphysical forces acting on the seating arrangements? Is it somehow engrained into the subconscious of the bus? Is there subliminal social pressure? Feelings of powerlessness? Social awkwardness? Has nothing from the Rosa Parks story resonated here? Or am I just imposing my story on the place? 

Okay, so, as per the usual, I have no conclusions about this cultural matter, only more questions and some odd reflections about myself and my own weird milieu. I do have a feeling, however, based on a several conversations about the "dangerous" neighborhood in which we live, that I am not off-base in suspecting something. I just don't know what exactly to suspect. Thankfully I am just a visitor and not the culture police so I can leave it at that. 

2 comments:

oijoyphoto - the husband said...

your examples here of political ads that are less than subtle mixed with most of europe's expressed "nationalism" (which seems to be the surgar-coated language for racism) - i find it sickening that we, the US, are always chastised for our lack of tolerance or social evolution. yet the level of cultural complexity in the smallest of midwestern towns rivals that of many european capitals. maybe my perspective is a bit imprudent b/c of my limited travels overseas - but imagine if those africans staged similar boycotts in full montgomery, AL style? how would rosa parks be greeted in the "progressive", "tolerant", and "socially enlightened" europe?

Swiss Ms. said...

Maybe I'll try to incite some protests to see what happens?