Why Did Kyle Get to Stay on the Bus?

 

wendellIn Lee’s Get on the Bus, there is a scene where we learn that both Wendell and Kyle support the Republican Party. Wendell goes on a tirade about “niggas like Jackson” to make the point that Black leaders seem to be always asking for some form of patronage, leading him to say, “They all say the same thing, ‘Hire us. Feed us. Affirmative Action’. Like we need America to keep a nipple in our mouth” (1:05:58). Kyle reiterates this point in his defense. He says, “Democrats wanna keep us powerless, docile, begging for handouts. Running around having babies without even a minute plan for their future” (1:06:17). So why did Wendell get thrown off the bus, but Kyle didn’t?

 

First of all, there are slight, but important,  differences to their arguments. They both support the Republican Party due to their position against government aid, but they place the blame on different groups. Wendell directly accuses current Black leaders of bringing about a ‘welfare mentality’ within the Black community, whereas Kyle places the blame on the Democratic Party. This is important because Wendell’s argument implies that Black people are the cause of their own problems, but Kyle’s argument implies that there is a racist agenda within the Democratic Party.

 

As the conversation progresses, a gulf between both men’s political beliefs starts to become apparent. Wendell explicitly states that, “It’s the 1990’s. Racism is a figment of the Black man’s imagination” (1:07:20). The bus riders do not take this well. This forces Kyle to differentiate his views from Wendell’s, saying, “At least I have sense enough to know that racism and homophobia exists brother” (1:07:54). All of a sudden Wendell is on his own, and his mouth gets him thrown off the bus.

 

The fact of the matter is, regardless of what party you support, you’re not going to find many Black people supporting you if you openly reject the existence of racism. Most, if not all, Black people have faced some form of racism multiple times in their life. It is hard to ignore the facts when they remain a constant part of Black life. This is why Kyle did not get thrown off the bus. He may be a Republican, but he is also a Black man.

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2 thoughts on “Why Did Kyle Get to Stay on the Bus?”

  1. I think that you hit the fundamental difference between Kyle and Wendell right on the nose. When I watched the scene when Kyle was revealed to be Republican, I completely agreed with his reasoning for not aligning with Democrats. I definitely agree that the party takes votes from people of color for granted because they don’t have a reputation of being racist. I also agree that it’s not a “welfare mentality” that makes the majority of black voters vote democrat, but the fact that the system creates a situation for marginalized people where we need welfare in the first place. I believe that the problem with the Democratic party is that it is complicit in this system. Bill Clinton was a democrat, and yet he continued the “tough on crime” mantra that Ronald Reagan began during his presidency that fueled and continues to fuel the prison-industrial complex in this country. I think that this election cycle is making me realize even more how much the democratic party takes peoples of color’s votes for granted, and this makes it very hard for me to identify completely with either the Democratic or Republican parties.

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  2. Gary: Hey Wendell, I got a joke for you: What do they call a black man with a Lexus dealership?

    Wendell: What?

    Gary: N*****.

    I think this is another instance in which Lee depicts fragmentations within marginalized group and a lack of clarity on the macro-level. This is a frustrating reminder that we tend to let our differences–whether it is our race, ethnicity, ideologies, or intersectional identities–create factions amongst communities that should be in solidarity of one another to lift up the race and other marginalized groups against the real oppressor–white mainstream culture.

    This bus scene reminds me of the factions within Do The Right Thing and School Daze, and when Wendell wields the word “welfare culture” against the black community, this reminds me of Malcolm Little’s perspective before he looked at the dictionary definitions of white and black. Radicialization of poverty occurred within the 1960s and grew stronger with more images of media depicting the poor as black as decades passed. This can be seen in the following article:

    https://www.press.umich.edu/pdf/9780472068319-ch4.pdf

    It’s always surprising to me when people talk about the welfare queen as black or that there are radicalized perspective when it comes to poverty since there is no face to poverty. If anything, the most common demographic of poverty is white single-mother households. It just hurts when people, such as Wendell, deny systemic oppression and believe in the American Dream, such that if they achieve it, they can use this artificially constructed story to place them in a higher mental tier than those they left behind and plan to exploit (ex: car sales in DC).

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