A Thin Line Between Protection and Domination: Thoughts About that Cleveland Bus Video

Last week, I reached out to @sassycrass and @dopegirlfresh because I wanted to write about the thin line between protection and domination for Black women. Lo and behold, it appears that the opportunity to write about the issue has made itself known sooner than I expected.

When I talk about the thin line between protection and domination I am thinking about many things including gender roles, race and street harassment.

Ultimately, the thin line between protection and domination rests on the reasoning that if a person states that you deserve to be protected because of the body that you come in, then it stands to reason that that same reasoning assumes that you can expect to be dominated because of the body that you come in. This kind of thinking has to be taken to its logical end.

As a Black woman who doesn’t take shit off of anyone I deal with a whole of street harassment in DC. For me street harassment is a kind of racial profiling because when I am in a White area of DC (Du Pont Circle in particular) and I see how Black men fuck with me in ways that they do not attempt to do so towards White women who are nearby, it is so clear to me that this is a racialized and gendered act.

I cringed when I saw how the bus driver hit the woman in the video largely because I am reminded of how Black women are, in the streets and in pop culture are often times hyper masculinized, rendered as men and dominated by default if they step out of acceptable gender roles.

Full stop. If she was talking shit to him, and she hit him, she should have been taken off the bus and handed over to the authorities. Bus drivers already have enough bullshit to deal with.

Hitting her was wrong not because she was a woman, it was wrong because you do not have a right to put your hands on anyone. Nor did she. As the person of authority in the situation it was his job to descalate and contain the situation and continue to get the folks on the bus from point A to point B.

In choosing to hit her the way that he did, the image read as “I will teach this Bitch a lesson.” And he did. Based on the way that he hit her, I am led to think that if he had a gun, he would have shot her.


Do you ever think about the thin line between protection and domination?

Why does it matter what size she was?


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  1. says

    When I saw the clip and how he hit her, he reacted like someone who was triggered. I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t the first time he went off on a woman physically.

    My uncle worked for Transit here in New York City and I’ve been on buses where passengers have gotten out of pocket. A dude threatened a bus driver. The driver said, “Because of this asshole, y’all gonna be late for work!” He got off of the bus, called the police. Not only did the police come, but a union rep as well.

    This man argued with this young woman for almost 15 minutes. He could have dragged her off of the bus and shut the damn door the moment she opened her mouth. He then chokes her and pulls her hair?

    Personally I think he got off on it. That video was disturbing and Black folks reaction to it (Making gif’s and cracking jokes on Twitter. I had to unfollow peeps I respected) was even more disturbing.

  2. says

    The commentary I have been reading from people concerning this video is disturbing. It seems so many people, men and women, believe the bus driver was right in hitting her because of her actions, and because she “acted like a man” so she deserves being treated “like a man”. What does it mean to “act like a man”? Loudness, aggressiveness, anger? Those are natural emotions and behaviors, why aren’t women allowed to express those also without being policed?

    Yes she was wrong for her actions, but the bus driver was also wrong for escalating the confrontation further by committing an act of physical violence against her. He is in a position of authority and should have de-escalated the situation.

  3. says

    you are right the driver was in position of authority and should have simply de-escaleted the situation but i guess we all have our bad days and I sometime wish I could teach some careless fool a lesson but i’ve slowly learnt that people like that rabid female bus passenger never learn and I have no choice but to resist people like her not out of cowardice but out of learnt self control.

    and in response to tasha above yes you are allowed to express those emotions just as long as you are not endangering the public, she hit the driver, besides that her bullshit talk was distractive enough to cause an accident on the road I bet if you were in that bus you would have wanted her to bottle up all those emotions till she got off so the driver could concentrate on his driving.

  4. Renina says

    I guess the thing about it is, is in DC I see people talk to bus drivers like that at least once a month. No one hits them, but I could certainly see how it could come to that on the 70/90 lines..esp the 70 on a weekend. o.0

    For me, the act was something that I have either seen or came close to seeing on the regular…and peoples indifference to the violence the bus driver enacted on her reminded me of how many folks don’t give a shit about violence and the threat of violence against Black women.

  5. Ms World says

    I have tried not to watch this video but just did a few minutes ago and I feel sick. Did anyone notice that the bus driver also choked her? In fact his actions felt like he was so angry with her that he could have killed her.

    Now I’m a frequent bus rider (I also ride the 70 bus in Washington D.C.) and I don’t think there’s any justification for the bus driver to hit her. The bus driver could have pulled the bus over and stopped. He could have stepped off the bus and called the police or his supervisor to report this incident. This would have probably taken a lot of will power but would have put him in a better position with his job (if it was important for him to keep his job).

    I feel like this incident illustrates a sentiment that I’ve seen in our (Black America) community– the rationalizing violent acts against each other.