Joseph Rose, Oregon Live, January 13, 2012
As dads with teenage daughters are bound to do, Barry Buckland and I found ourselves comparing parenting notes Friday.
We didn’t get into the music that we ask them to turn down. Or how we should handle the boys suddenly snooping around. Instead, we chatted about whether it was safe for a 14-year-old girl to ride TriMet.
I have no problem with it. Surprisingly, neither does Buckland. “That’s what it’s there for,” the Gresham man said. Sure, there are going to be times when trouble hops on board. But Buckland still believes the positives of public transit far outweigh the scary stuff.
I say “still” because Buckland now knows about the rough side of riding MAX. On Dec. 26, three girls used his daughter Karley as a spitting post and punching bag on a Green Line train. A bystander thought it would be cooler to use his cellphone to shoot video than dial 9-1-1, so thousands of us have also witnessed the sickening scene via YouTube.
Police have made arrests. Karley escaped with just bumps and bruises. TriMet has promised a written apology and to improve security. But there’s still something hanging out there. Buckland and I couldn’t decide which was uglier: The video or the reaction to it. “People have taken a grain of sand,” the landscaper and fishing guide said, “and tried to turn it into a 200-pound boulder.”
Karley is white. Her attackers are black. For many people hiding under the hood of anonymity on talk radio and in online forums, that’s all the evidence they needed to unload: Hate crime! Racist attack! Proof of “black hate” and “black racism”!
Stop. The reality, investigators say, is that the flogging started after Karley and her attackers had a “verbal dispute” on the train. Karley made it clear that she didn’t appreciate the girls’ loud, distasteful remarks about a boy riding with her. They, in turn, didn’t like that she had the mettle to stand up for her friend. So, the thugs advanced.
Yes, Karley told me, one of the strangers referred to her as “white girl.” But it was an encounter of a hundred insults. The girls were drunk on their own spit. These are the things bullies say.
“I really don’t think they singled me out because I was white,” the Centennial Middle Schooler said. “This wasn’t a racial thing.” (Remember, she was there.)
[Editor’s Note: See the original story and video here.]