Not this again: Women asked to move to the back of the bus in Brooklyn
I saw this headline on Jezebel.com and thought, "Not again." It's been less than two weeks since we heard about Yiddish signs asking Jewish women to "move to the side when a man approaches." Is it just me, or is the Hasidic/secular battle for public space in Brooklyn getting out of hand?
The B110 bus, which travels between Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn, is a public bus run by a private company under a decades old agreement with the city. Since it primarily serves the Hasidic community, a board of rabbis is in charge of setting the rules. Still, the B110 is technically a public bus with a route number and city bus stops.
On October 12, Melissa Franchy boarded the B110 bus at the invitation of a Columbia Journalism School's New York World reporter in was most likely intended to be a social experiment. Franchy sat at the front of the bus; women are supposed to sit at the back. Hasidic Jewish men on the bus asked her to move, saying she was riding a "private bus" and a "Jewish bus." When she asked why, a man said, "If G-d makes a rule, you don't ask 'Why make the rule?'"
Since the bus is technically still a public bus, discrimination laws should still apply. A few commenters on Jezebel.com argue that this is a case of "poking the bear" and question how problematic the bus policy is if it's only ridden by Hasidic Jews. Some even called Franchy's action a "dick move," to which one commenter replied, "Was it also a dick move for Rosa Parks?"
Segregation in public spaces generally troubles me, regardless of whom or why. This incident is troubling on multiple levels, especially considering the symbolic importance of segregated buses in American history.
In the 1960s, Jewish Freedom Riders like Judith Frieze protested segregation by riding busses with African Americans. They risked imprisonment and they risked their lives. When will we stand up against segregation in our own communities? When do we say "enough" and hold Hasidic Jews accountable for their violations of equal rights as they are defined in the 21st Century?