Rosa Parks, Sadly Missed

Via the New York World:

On the morning of October 12, Melissa Franchy boarded the B110 bus in Brooklyn and sat down near the front. For a few minutes she was left in silence, although the other passengers gave her a noticeably wide berth. But as the bus began to fill up, the men told her that she had to get up. Move to the back, they insisted.

They were Orthodox Jews with full beards, sidecurls and long black coats, who told her that she was riding a “private bus” and a “Jewish bus.” When she asked why she had to move, a man scolded her.

“If God makes a rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?’” he told Franchy, who rode the bus at the invitation of a New York World reporter. She then moved to the back where the other women were sitting. The driver did not intervene in the incident.

The B110 bus travels between Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn. It is open to the public, and has a route number and tall blue bus stop signs like any other city bus. But the B110 operates according to its own distinct rules. The bus line is run by a private company and serves the Hasidic communities of the two neighborhoods. To avoid physical contact between members of opposite sexes that is prohibited by Hasidic tradition, men sit in the front of the bus and women sit in the back.

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9 Responses to Rosa Parks, Sadly Missed

  1. John says:

    Well, if it’s a privately owned bus, they should be allowed to discriminate for any dumb reason they want.

  2. Mark says:

    The missing link between the nutty Muslims and nutty Christians–nutty Jews.

  3. Mary says:

    John – it’s not a “private” bus. It’s a public bus route, operated by a private company with a franchise (license from the city) to operate the route as a public accomodation. The route operates as a public bus route, therefore, the company is not free to enforce discriminatory practices.

    By definition, the bus route is a “a public accommodation” subject to U.S., state, and local anti-discrimination laws.

    In New York, anyone who provides goods or services to the PUBLIC is a public accomodation. The bus route provides a service to the public, therefore, it is a public accomodation. Public accomodations cannot discriminate on the basis of gender. Discrimination occurs when members of a particular class are subject to disparate treatment.

    It goes without saying that the country decided >60 years ago that being forced to sit in the back of a bus is discrimination!

  4. Acilius says:

    The bus itself may be privately owned, but its owners have made a contract with the city to operate as part of the transit authority’s service. By signing that contract, they accepted an obligation to follow the same rules and regulations that govern other providers of that service. If those rules and regulations contradicted their religious beliefs and they knew that they would not be able to abide by them, they shouldn’t have signed the contract.

  5. John says:

    Mary, Acilius,

    The impression I get from the article is that it is “public” only in the sense that the government defines any service that operates on public streets to be public. However, that is a bad definition of “public”.

    Some things are owned by the government. Government should not discriminate for any of the usual reasons. Therefore, if I walk into a police station, veteran’s hospital, administative building, or apply for a government grant, the state should not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, ect.

    However, I as a private citizen ought to be able to discriminate for any reason I choose. If I don’t want to hire redheads, date Hispanics, or let women into my car, I ought to be able to decide that. Then 60 years ago the government decided that some privately owned property (like homes) are “private”, and I am allowed to discriminate, while other privately owned property is “public”, and I am not allowed to discriminate. It then tautologically mandated that since “public” privately owned property is open to everybody, it must be open to everybody. I consider this to be a violation of liberty.

  6. RandyB says:

    Ain’t diversity great?

    Don’t you just love America’s variety of cultural practices?

    Wouldn’t we lose something if all buses used the same seating patterns?

  7. Acilius says:

    No John, the B110 is a city bus line. The company operates it under a franchise agreement with the NYC Department of Transportation.

  8. Mike H says:

    I have to say that Hasidic Jews with their backward customs, their penchant for self-segregation and their potential for communal violence remind me a lot of the followers of a certain other Middle East-based religion.

  9. Alpheus says:

    There’s been a lot of disagreement about whether or not the bus is “private”–but why hasn’t anyone mentioned the most backward thing in the story? And no, it has nothing to do with seating patterns.

    Where in the world did we get the idea that it’s the government’s role–whether it be federal, state, or even city–to provide bus routes? Indeed, it is very likely that the bus has a contract with the city to run the route, not because they want money from the city, but precisely because that is the only way to run the bus legally!

    This madness isn’t just limited to bus routes. The only way to run a cab is to get a license from the city, and the city only gives out a fixed number of licenses. Thus, licenses are extremely expensive, and there is a shortage of taxi cabs for New York.

    Why should New York care, one way or another, whether or not you are paying someone to drive you around the city? And if they still insist on licensing, at a minimum, they should provide “shall issue” licensing–a fixed fee for a license that cannot be denied, except for conviction of egregious past conduct.

    In other words: we shouldn’t be getting out panties all bunched up over a case of discrimination–we should be free do discriminate all we want–the *real* wedgie comes from a lack of freedom, including the inability to start a *non-discriminatory* bus line without permission from some mindless bureaurcrat.

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