Mr. Get Bad: What If Shi’dea Lane, The Cleveland Uppercut Receiver, Had Been A Man?
In the little suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, Artis Hughes, a 22-year veteran of the Regional Transit Authority bus company, stopped the number 5 bus, unbuckled himself from his seat and with the strength of Mike Tyson, uppercut punched 25 year-old Shi’dea Lane. According to various reports, Hughes punched Lane after she spat and hit him in retaliation for some very ugly words he tossed at her. When asked by another passenger, who threw herself between Hughes and Lane, why he hit her, Hughes responded, “If she wants to act like a man, I’mma treat her like one.”
Okay, here we go. In life I have learned that you must go against the grain and take some very unpopular stances. And as such, you will likely stand alone. So in the interest of providing another perspective, I feel that this is about to be one of those times.
Within a week, Hughes uppercut became the punch heard ‘round the world. People were literally cheering him on as he dropped Lane and then tossed her stuff off of the bus. Some call him a hero, a modern day William (D-Fens) Foster of the film Falling Down, lashing out in frustration about the degradation of society. Some even co-signed his mantra of acting like a man and getting treated like one, recalling their own stories about the time when they really wanted to punch a loud mouth b**** in her face. There was something about this video that folks enjoyed, a little too much if you ask me.
I watched the video from multiple angles and while it is clear that Lane is not a victim in this situation, it’s also obvious that Hughes is also not a victim – nor is he a hero. While it is true that women and should be treated as equals in society, I really doubt that if the situation had been different, that if Lanes had been an actual man, that Hughes would have reacted in the same way.
The problem with the “act like a man, treat you like one” meme is that men don’t relate to other men in the same regards as they do with women, especially when there is a chance that the situation might get tense. I remember years ago, I was riding around the city, blasting music and enjoying the summer breeze with my then-boyfriend. Anyway, I must have been enjoying myself a little too much because a vehicle behind me sped up and started driving in the oncoming traffic lane. I was looking at this man like he was crazy because you have to be a little special to ride in the oncoming traffic lane. He rolled down his windows and began angrily yelling expletives at me. He was so intense that I was sure that he was going to do something crazy, like trying to push me off the road. Fortunately for me, my boyfriend, who had this annoying habit of tilting his seat back so low that it looked like he is asleep in the back, popped up and asked the dude if he had a problem. Suddenly, the crazy oncoming traffic driving man’s entire attitude changed. He went from cursing at me to calmly explaining – to my then boyfriend – that I was driving slower than the speed limit. My then-boyfriend reminded the dude that this was a residential neighborhood, thus we were going the speed limit. The man in the other vehicle issued an apology by way of a “my bad” and then sped off up the block, this time in the right lane.
Throughout my life I have witnessed similar circumstances in which a man will act in a hyper-aggressive manner with a woman and then retreat when another man interferes. Rarely do we see two men, who are strangers to each other, arguing this intensely. The reason being is that men generally know that what could start off as an argument can quickly escalate to something more physical, deadly even. Any man who says otherwise is either a liar, in a court-ordered domestic violence program or has two strikes, working on his third. Therefore, you have to wonder why Hughes felt compelled to challenge and almost entice the woman into not only a verbal but physical confrontation. If he truly felt in danger, wouldn’t he have stopped arguing? Called authorities?
Had Lane been a man, Hughes probably would not have argued with her. He would not have called him a b**** nor dared the male version of Lane to spit on him. If Lane had been a man and persisted in his confrontation, Hughes would not have squared off on him. Instead, he would have done the reasonable rationale thing and thought about all that he had to lose: his job, his freedom and possibly his life. Then he would have done the responsible thing by pulling over the bus and asking for police assistance. In fact, if Lane had been a man who got on the bus and acted all unruly as she had, Hughes would have more than likely shut the hell up and we would all be watching a video of some crazy man acting foolish while the wheels on the bus go ‘round and round.
Obviously violence is not gender specific, therefore men and women must be treated equally with regard to violence. In some instances, men will have to defend themselves even when the perpetrator is female. An example of that is the McDonald’s worker, who had to fend off not one but two attacking women. There, we understood a clear and present danger. In the situation of the Cleveland bus driver, the only thing that was really in danger was his pride and ego, which was not going to see him challenged in a way that jeopardized his manhood – especially not in front of all those instigating people. In other words, this wasn’t about self-defense, that punch was personal.
This is not to say that Lane doesn’t bare responsibility in this incident. Hitting someone because he made an unflattering comment about your appearance is not okay. She should have just kicked a “Ya Mamma got scars on her face” and kept it moving. And because she didn’t, she is an a**hole. However, the moment after Hughes decided to go after her again and choke her, he was no longer a victim. In this situation, neither Lane nor Hughes did the right thing and both deserve whatever consequences are awaiting them, which in the case of Hughes, probably won’t be much. He just better be glad that it was a black woman he hit and not a white woman. The national response would not have been as empathic. But that’s a whole other story for another day.