Thursday, August 7, 2008

Race Lines

Thursday night I took the train downtown to run in the Elvis is Alive 5K, which was held in Grant Park along Lake Michigan. As anyone who has taken the CTA's Red Line south from the North Side knows, the farther south the train travels, the fewer white people are on the train.

I thought it interesting at one of the first downtown stops -- it may have been Lake Street -- when the white people became fewer and it started to become a train of black folks heading home to the South Side, that a woman, black, asked a man, also black, if there was a White Sox home game tonight, since that would explain why there were still more than a couple white people on the train past say, Monroe, which is about the midway point of the downtown stops. He told her he thought so, but there may also have been a Cubs game that afternoon. (The Cubs are the North Side baseball team, the Sox the South Side club.)

She then replied, "the telltale sign will be Jackson." Jackson is the last downtown stop on the southbound Red Line, before the train heads into Chinatown, then 35th Street, then the rest of the South Side, all the way down to 95th Street. She explained to him, though I got the impression he knew, since he nodded along, that if the white people stayed on the train past Jackson, there was a Sox game tonight and they all were headed to the South Side, whereas, if all the white folks got off at Jackson, then the Cubs had played that day and the night game and their fans were disembarking to go to their downtown hotels or switch trains to the Metra to take them back to the suburbs.

(I don't know what they must have thought of me, since I had on my 1970s Dick Allen-era White Sox cap, and was carrying my change of clothes in the drawstring bag I got at 80s night at the Cell -- the bag has a 1980s era Sox logo on it -- just above the "Get Pepsi Stuff" ad -- and I got off at Jackson to meet Stephen and Stacey for the run.)

In a way I thought it was kind of cool that these two folks (and, I imagine, many more) could determine (me being the exception) what baseball team was playing based on how long the white people stayed on their train, but in another way, I guess I wish it wasn't such that it you are black you live in this or that part of town and if you're white, you obviously don't live there or there.

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