Another bus ride, another outcome

December 26, 2007|By GREGORY KANE

On Tuesday, Dec. 4, Sarah Kreager, a white woman, was brutally beaten, allegedly by nine black teenagers on a Maryland Transit Administration bus in North Baltimore. Kreager's boyfriend, Troy Ennis, was also attacked.

Kreager said her attack might have been racially motivated. MTA officials said they were looking into whether race played a role in the incident.

Parents and relatives of some of the juveniles accused of participating in the violence have said race had nothing to do with the incident. Those same people have yet to condemn what was essentially an act of mob violence, no matter what the provocation.

On Saturday, Dec. 8, Agi Rado, a white woman, boarded a nearly empty No. 11 bus in front of her apartment building on North Charles Street. She was headed downtown to the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Soon the bus was filled with passengers, all but two of them black.

Rado felt she had to tell what happened to her on that bus, especially in light of what happened to Kreager and Ennis and all the talk about race, racism and violence that had occurred in the previous four days. Rado began a conversation with one black man; another soon joined in. By the time Rado left the bus, one of those men would take her by the hand and gently kiss it.

To explain how and why that happened, you need to know more about Rado.

She emigrated with her husband from Hungary in 1956 to a United States that was rigidly segregated. Rado found that out in the first American city she and her husband lived in: Dallas.

Rado said she experienced a bit of culture shock when she came to America because she spoke no English.

"It's difficult to get used to a totally new country because of the language barrier," she said. "To get used to the segregated South made it more shocking. I never saw in Hungary anyone of black skin color. I was horrified to see bathrooms labeled `Black' and `White.'"

What horrified Rado even more was the year she spent in Ravensbruck, one of the many concentration camps in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. The Nazis stormed into Hungary in March of 1944. In November of that year, she and nine other members of her family were taken to concentration camps.

All but Rado died in Auschwitz. Rado remained at Ravensbruck until 1945, when she was moved to a smaller camp that was liberated by Russian troops in May of that year. By the time the Soviets arrived, Rado weighed 70 pounds.

"I was a skeleton with skin," she recalled.

Rado might have been thinking about her ordeal at Ravensbruck when she was on the No. 11 bus Dec. 8. She got up to let a black man carrying a large package sit by the window. After the man sat down, he asked Rado if she were Jewish.

"Why is it of interest to you?" Rado asked.

"You are God's people," the man answered.

"Every human being is God's people," Rado said. The stranger told Rado it sounded like she was teaching the Bible.

"I'm not the best person to be teaching the Bible," Rado retorted, "because I didn't learn it too well myself." After the man asked if she were religious, Rado recounted her experiences at Ravensbruck.

Another black man, sitting in front of Rado, overheard the conversation and told her that he visited Dachau this past summer.

"I can't tell you the horrible things I saw," the second man said. He was the one who took Rado by the hand and kissed it as she left the bus.

"I was surprised that from such a milieu comes such a statement," Rado said. "The whole thing was an amazing experience. For days afterward, I felt uplifted by it. It was indescribable."

Rado, a concert pianist who has played around the world and taught music, said she had one reason for wanting to see that her experience saw the light of day.

"The story is very apropos because there were all these horrible events on the buses," she said. Maybe, Rado figured, Baltimoreans of all races might want to hear a tale of racial harmony and brotherhood, as opposed to one of racial strife.

We should thank Rado for this story, but we should also thank her for the caveat she gave about why we should never tolerate bigotry. Rado has personally experienced the horror of what such bigotry can lead to when it's given state sanction.

"People should be judged on what they are, who they are and how they act," Rado advised.

I think we can all give her a hearty "Amen!" to that one.

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