As writer Jesús Colón found on a subway ride in new York City in the 1950s, perceptions about one’s own identity and also the identities of rather can influence the decisions world make about one another.

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It was really late in ~ night top top the night of Memorial Day. She came right into the subway at the 34th Street Pennsylvania Station. Ns am still trying come remember just how she regulated to push herself in through a infant on her appropriate arm, a valise in her left hand and also two children, a boy and girl about three and five years old, trailing after her. She to be a nice-looking white lady in her early on twenties.

At Nevins Street, Brooklyn, we observed her prepare to gain off at the next station—Atlantic Avenue—which taken place to it is in the location where i too had to acquire off. Simply as it to be a problem for her to obtain on, it to be going to be a difficulty for she to acquire off the subway through two small children to it is in taken treatment of, a baby on her right arm, and also a medium-sized valise in her left hand.

And there ns was, additionally preparing to get off at Atlantic Avenue, through no majority to take treatment of—not even the customary publication under mine arm, there is no which i feel that i am not fully dressed.


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As the train was entering the Atlantic path station, part white guy stood increase from his seat and also helped she out, place the kids on the long, deserted platform. There were just two adult people on the long platform part time after ~ midnight on the night of critical Memorial Day.

I can perceive the steep, lengthy concrete stairs going under to the long Island Railroad and up right into the street. Need to I offer my assist as the American white man did in ~ the subway door, put the two kids outside the subway car? need to I take care of the girl and the boy, take it them by their hands till they got to the finish of the steep, long concrete stairs the the Atlantic path station? 

Courtesy is a characteristic of the Puerto Rican. And here i was—a Puerto Rican hours past midnight, a valise, two white children and a white lady with a infant on her eight needing someone to assist her, at least until she descended the lengthy concrete stairs.

But how might I, a Negro1 and also a Puerto Rican, approach this white lady, who really likely can have preconceived prejudices around Negroes and also everybody with foreign accents, in a deserted subway station very late at night?

What would she say? What would certainly be the very first reaction of this white American woman perhaps coming indigenous a little town through a valise, 2 children and a baby on her ideal arm? would she say: yes, of course, friend may assist me. Or would certainly she think that ns was just trying to gain too familiar? Or would she think worse than that perhaps? What would certainly I carry out if she let out a scream together I went forward to offer my help?

Was i misjudging her? So many slanders space written every job in the day-to-day press against the Negroes and Puerto Ricans. Ns hesitated for a long, lengthy minute. The genealogical manners that the most illiterate Puerto Rican passes on from father to child were struggling within me. Below was I, method past midnight, challenge to face with a instance that could very well explode right into an eight of prejudices and also chauvinistic air conditioning of the “divide and rule” policy of present-day society.

It was a lengthy minute.

I happen on through her as if I observed nothing. As if ns was insensitive to she need. Prefer a rude animal walking on 2 legs, I simply moved on, half running by the long subway platform, leaving the children and also the valise and her with the infant on she arm. Ns took the measures of the long concrete stair in twos until I reached the street above and the cold wait slapped my warm face.

This is what racism and also prejudice and chauvinism and also official artificial divisions deserve to do come people and also to a nation!

Perhaps the lady was not prejudiced after all. Or not prejudiced enough to scream in ~ the coming of a Negro towards her in a solitary subway station a couple of hours previous midnight.

If friend were no that prejudiced, ns failed you, too ~ lady. I recognize that there is a chance in a million that you will read these lines. Ns am ready to take the millionth chance. If you were no that prejudiced, ns failed you, lady. I failed you, children. I failed myself to myself.

I buried my courtesy early on Memorial work morning. Yet here is a promise that i make to myself here and also now; if ns am ever faced with an occasion favor that again, i am going to sell my help regardless of how the market is walking to it is in received.

Then ns will have actually my courtesy with me again.2

Citations

1
: words Negro was frequently used in the early and also middle year of the twentieth century to describe an afri American. Its use mirrors the time period. During the 1960s, the ax black changed Negro in usual American usage, and today African American is often used rather of black.

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2 : Jesús Colón, A Puerto Rican in brand-new York, and also Other Sketches (New York: worldwide Publishers, 1982), 115–17. Reproduced through permission from international Publishers.


What to be Jesús Colón’s dilemma ~ above the train? What to be the different components he to be weighing in his mind?What was at stake in Colón’s decision? exactly how did he feel around his an option afterward?Why carry out you think he created this story? Why carry out you think Colón title his essay “Little Things space Big”?Create a different ending come the story. What carry out you think Colón might have done? exactly how do you think the woman can have comment to the activity you have actually imagined because that Colón? explain the effect of that activity on Colón.How execute your concerns about how others might perceive you influence your actions?