By Lois Beckett
A San Francisco bus driver who was assaulted last week said that both he and his Asian passengers have faced racist abuse when they have asked other riders to wear their face masks during the pandemic.
The driver said he was hit in the face and struck with a miniature baseball bat last Wednesday after asking a group of teenagers to put on their face masks.
Before he was assaulted, the driver said, one of the young men told him that because he was Asian, he was the one who was likely to have coronavirus.
“It’s hard right now being a bus driver, especially being an Asian driver,” he told the Guardian, asking that his name not be published to protect his privacy.
Since the early weeks of the pandemic, bus drivers across the United States have spoken out about anger and assaults from passengers, particularly when they try to enforce public health rules about social distancing and mask-wearing.
Just in the past month, bus drivers have been beaten after asking passengers to wear masks in San Francisco, New York City and in Lubbock, Texas, where a bus driver was hit with a large wooden board and left bloody. A New York City driver reportedly left with a broken bone near his eye in July was one of dozens of Covid-related violent incidents involving bus drivers in New York, according to the City, a local news outlet. In France, a bus driver died after a brutal beating in early July, prompted once again by asking a group of passengers to put on their masks.
Bus drivers and other transit workers across the US have also described being spat on and threatened when they try to enforce safety guidelines. In Detroit, Michigan, bus driver Jason Hargrove died of coronavirus less than two weeks after he posted an emotional Facebook video about his frustration with a passenger who was coughing on his bus without covering her mouth.
“It’s constant verbal abuse from passengers all day long,” said the San Francisco bus driver, who has worked for the city for two years. “We have to enforce this mask rule. People don’t like being told what to do.”
The driver said he believed it would be helpful to have a security guard, police officer, or other person on public buses whose sole job is to enforce mask rules, so that drivers can focus on driving.
Beckett, Lois. “’It’s Constant Verbal Abuse’: San Francisco Bus Driver Recounts Assault after Enforcing Mask Rule.” The Guardian, 28 July 2020.
Covid-19 showed us how racist some people could be. In this article, an Asian bus driver was assaulted for telling people to wear a mask. The same people who assault him assumed he had coronavirus because he was Asian. The surge in anti-Asian hate crimes was upsetting. I think this article really caught my attention because it addressed this rising issued along with the fact that bus drivers often suffer from verbal and physical abuse from passengers and those, they share the road with.
One of my goals for my thesis is to address the topic of diversity and inclusion. And learning more about how transit workers are treated and their experiences with racism is infuriating, but also valuable to my research.