In January, Allen Haywood was a young man who was attacked on the DC Metro green line for no other reason than he was a nice guy minding his own business. I wrote back then that it didn’t have to be that way. Allen was reading a book when a bunch of hoodlums swarmed. He responded by trying to reason with individuals who are not only unreasonable, but in many ways worse than animals (animals act on instinct, but these kids knew what they were doing and ambushed him just for the fun of it).
I wrote back then that the proper response should have been to indicate (through a number of verbal and non-verbal cues) that he was someone who wouldn’t be an easy target. In the comments section a reader I greatly respect posted that my philosophy hinged on the ability to recognize that there are evil people out there and the ability to fully commit to the strategy should the nightmare scenario unfold.
Tonight, for me, it did.
As I came home late from work on the DC Metro Green line, an inebriated older man approached me. I stood towards the back of the Metro minding my own business. The stranger crept up beside me, but just enough to my rear to obscure his actions. There was almost no one else on the train. I angled slightly towards him and he whispered in my ear, “Why don’t you sit down? Don’t you like black people?” I ignored him. He raised his voice: “Why don’t you sit down? Don’t you like black people?” Again, I ignored him. Since the third time around is a charm I finally answered, “I’ve been sitting all day.”
He didn’t believe me.
The man continued to ask me the question, and when I ignored him some more (all the while paying close attention to his position and body language) he turned his question into a statement. Then, he squared up, stated that I didn’t like black people and pushed his palm into my shoulder, which I immediately swiped down with a force that surprised him. He approached again, reaching out his hand to push my shoulder and I swiped it hard enough to make him stutter-step backwards.
On his third attempt to escalate the situation he came at me from the side and bumped me. I responded by shoving him to the other side of the Metro car with enough force so that, should I have chosen to pounce, the backward momentum with which he was stumbling would have put him at a distinct disadvantage.
At this time the Metro stopped, the man gave me a few hard glares and left the train car.
How would my night have transpired had I wilted when confronted by an angry drunk eager to start a racial throw down? While it’s impossible to know, we do know that the individual was looking for an altercation. Faced with someone who paid him no mind from the get-go and ignored his race-baiting, the man still resorted to physical intimidation. So why did he stop?
I believe the answer lies in the old maxim: peace through strength. When bullies realize that their target is the type of person who could suddenly turn the tables on them, they think twice. Letting a thug—even a drunk one—know from the start that you will be the aggressor in any serious altercation (and thus dictate what options are permissible for its duration) causes hesitation. And, because governments are composed of men—fallible men—in many ways such lessons can be applied on a larger scale. Anything you can do to place doubt in your enemy’s mind about their ability to successfully attack is to your advantage.
If you’re a mild mannered young man (or nation), you should never fear The Hulk inside you. He’s there for a reason, and not using such strength and rage when the situation calls for it would be another crime added to an already-sad situation.