Following last week’s now-infamous Muni fight, a commenter here alerted us to the fact that she was the sister of the woman who helped break up the fight. It’s somewhat tangential to what occurred that day, but many people (including myself) applauded this woman’s behavior. I hesitate to use the word “hero,” but she did something most of us don’t do — intervene. Hell, there’s even chapters of psychology textbooks devoted to the so-called “bystander effect,” or “Kitty Genovese effect,” so named for a woman who was murdered in front of an apartment building in New York in the ’60s, with thirty-some-odd people witnessing the whole thing, and consequently doing nothing.
True, no one got killed on the bus last week, although other violence has occurred on-board San Francisco buses lately. Still, this person who stepped in to help mitigate the situation didn’t know whether she’d be harmed. Muni Diaries applauds her actions, and we’ve now had the opportunity to talk to her about that day. Due to some of the comments she’s received on sites that posted the video, she doesn’t feel comfortable putting her full name here. So we’re using her first name, Chi, for this interview.
Muni Diaries: Tell us about what happened that day on the bus. (please tell us when you got on the bus – did you witness the beginning of the fight or was it already happening when you got on?)
Chi: I got on the bus as the two women were in the midst of a heated argument only at that point. I had no idea what they were arguing about at the time. I was listening to my iPod and decided to turn it up to drown out the external noise.
MD: What made you decide to pull them apart?
Chi: I heard a young girl who was standing behind me scream and run forward towards the front of the bus. At that point, I turned around to see the two women fighting, since I was facing forward, towards the front also. I quickly assessed that they weren’t going to get an intervention, so that’s when I stepped in.
MD: Would you suggest stepping up as you did when this sort of incident occurs?
Chi: Yes, but one doesn’t necessarily have to physically intervene if there’s a threat. Assess the situation, and go with your gut feeling. There’s a time to mediate and there’s a time to just call or get help immediately. Call me empathetic, but my school of thought is, if I were in dire straits, I would want someone to help me.
MD: Did you keep up with how viral the video had become, and how did you feel to be sort of an Internet celebrity for a while?
Chi: No, I didn’t keep up with how viral it became, but my friends sure let me know. As for being an Internet celebrity, I was mortified! That video didn’t show any of us in the best light, and I’m sure the other ladies would agree with me. It’s shocking and surreal to say the least.
MD: Some of the commenters called you a hero. How did you feel about the things people were saying about you and the video?
Chi: I definitely have mixed feelings regarding everyone’s comments. Some were extremely supportive (which I certainly can and do appreciate), and some were pretty critical. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but until one knows all the facts from beginning to end, you may be passing judgment based on evidence that’s inconclusive. For example, I’ve read or heard comments such as, “why did the younger Asian girl protect the African American woman, when she was the one who clearly threw the first punch?” The fact is I didn’t see who started the fight, nor did I care at the time. The video only shows footage from where one man was sitting (it does not show how the argument started). What I saw were two adult women hurting each other. I wanted to stop it before someone really got hurt, period. Other comments describe the fight as a “racial” incident. I would have to respectfully disagree. I didn’t hear one racial epithet being used between either women when I intervened. Mind you, I don’t understand Chinese, because I’m not of that ethnicity, which was another incorrect assumption. Being a proud Asian woman myself, I’ve come across racism unfortunately, and would have addressed it at the time, had I thought that was the case. I guess hindsight is always 20/20. I’m certain anyone can find fault with any one person shown on tape, but until you’re unknowingly caught on tape in a crisis, then judged by many strangers, it’s a whole different ballgame. Moving forward, I’ll continue to be a concerned citizen, minus the judgment.
MD: Will you still ride Muni?
Chi: Yes, although maybe a bit less frequently.
MD: What are your feelings on how Muni should’ve handled the situation? Specifically, what should the driver have done, if anything?
Chi: I can’t speak for the driver, because I don’t know all the facts from his perspective. As for Muni, I think there should definitely be working cameras on each and every one of those buses. If the driver couldn’t see or hear the fight ensuing because it was on a longer bus, than that should be addressed by Muni. Assuming the driver did hear the argument, warn both women via speaker that if it continues, they have get off the bus. Obviously in this case, there was a physical altercation, so the driver should’ve at least reported the incident and called the police since there was an assault.