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The Greyhound bus service needs to be rehomed
When people bash our public services and exclaim that private can do it better, I like to point to Greyhound. Its racist roots are why even today it’s one of the worst interregional bus services in the Global West. Greyhound is a private interstate bus company founded in Minnesota in 1914 and it has always taken part in racial discrimination, even when it was unnecessary.
I think one of the easiest get-out-jail cards for corporate America is the idea that all of America actively championed white supremacy. That is not exactly true. Corporate America often champions racism, but corporate America isn’t the entire country. The US had a lot of abolitionists who weren’t John Brown. Abolitionist Francis George Shaw was Henry George’s benefactor. We had Italian immigrants who were fierce leftists. Prior to WW2, many Italian and Eastern European Immigrants were leftists and socialists. Under white supremacist Woodrow Wilson they were deported after the 1919 Palmer Raids. The binary America, schools taught us about is not the complete story.
From Greyhound’s inception, it did its best to bring the Confederacy north of the Mason Dixon Line. Its de facto racist policies guided mass transit, public and private, and modern interstate travel. They consistently enforced Jim Crowism in places where Jim Crow didn’t exist. Greyhound helped normalize the violent racism that flourished under post-reconstruction.
The segregated busses that motivated the Freedom Riders weren’t random busses. They were, for the most part, Greyhound. Greyhound was never an innocent flower whose hands were tied and forced into being racist by the evil racist government. No, it was our government’s courts that repeatedly told them from the early 20th century to stop violating Black people’s rights.
Documented as far back as the 1920s, Greyhound drivers harassed Black customers by applying Southern segregation laws in Northern cities. One such case took place in 1927 in Indiana. A Polish American bus driver, Glen Branoski removed African American, Laura Fischer from the front of the bus. He cited the Jim Crow laws of the South as a reason. For violating Fischer’s rights, he was fined $50 and spent 20 days in county jail.
The United States various courts at each decade told Greyhound to stop engaging in racist and discriminatory practices:
Richmond Indiana judge Fred Pickett stated in 1927 that “The Indiana law on racial discrimination is clear. It does not tolerate discrimination” (Palladium, November 29).
On June 3, 1946, in a 7-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional for Virginia to continue the enforcement of segregation on interstate busses.
In 1960 the US Supreme Court ruled in Boynton v. Virginia that segregation in the facilities provided for interstate travelers, such as bus terminals, restaurants, and restrooms, was also unconstitutional.
All of those cases were regarding Greyhound, which has had a monopoly on North American travel for nearly a century.
Greyhound wasn’t a company of its time. Greyhound was one of the companies that brought about de jure segregation. Greyhound created the time and drove people to it. It has always actively engaged in racist practices, and even today, it has continued its white hegemony by allowing the border patrol on its busses to violate riders’ Fourth Amendment rights. They did this through 2020. They only stopped this practice when they were sued and fined a couple of million dollars.
“Greyhound Lines will pay $2.2 million to resolve a lawsuit filed by Washington State that accused it of allowing US Customs and Border Protection agents to conduct warrantless immigration sweeps on its [busses], state officials said this week.” —Michael Levenson, NY Times (2021)
Greyhound is a literal nightmare on wheels. Grayhound is not accidentally incompetent. It is willfully sadistic. After the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, they didn’t care about their primarily Black, Latino, rural, and short on options passengers. They would rather be trash than treat non-white people with respect. It is almost as if, if it couldn’t engage in white supremacist practices, they were just going to make service as horrible as possible. And Greyhound is the worst transit experience in the Global West. Similarly to the racist banks that redlined Black communities that led to disinvestment and slumlike conditions. Greyhound defunded their own passenger busses rather than pay their drivers and offer civilized service to their customers. Racism’s modus operandi often states it is only racist because it wants to keep things nice —and then when racism is made illegal, the actors of racism’s next move is defunding and stripping a service, which makes the service horrible, and then they can go, “See we told you.”
Yes, you told us you were horrible, and you did not disappoint.
Greyhound makes no effort to consider their passengers because they don’t have to and, more importantly, do not want to like the speculators in the hypersegergated ghetto that views the working class and Black and Latinos residents as tax breaks and subsidies. Greyhound holds the same purview of their Black and Latino passengers as speculators do— “things” to exploit. Greyhound gets subsidies and tax breaks by saying they drive people from the hinterlands of rural America, but what they are concerned about is moving freight.
My husband took Greyhound from St. Louis to Columbia, Missouri. Greyhound made their passengers get in line an hour ahead of schedule for a bus that sat in the terminal and left an hour later. Through the window, he could see the freight in the passenger seats at the back of the bus. But because they overbooked it, he had to wait for another hour for the overflow bus. Passengers spent three hours standing in line, but at least this wasn’t the repeat of his Greyhound trip from Chicago to Louisville. He took the red-eye, hoping to sleep. The bus was late, leaving at 1:30 a.m. from its scheduled departure of midnight, and this is after asking passengers to assemble in line at 11:00 p.m. In the middle of the night, when the bus arrived halfway through the destination to Indianapolis, they forced everyone off the bus and had them wait in the terminal for an hour before reboarding and checking each ticket.
Greyhound: When there are no other alternatives, the police are about to find the body, and it’s too far to bicycle.
They’d rather haul freight if they can’t be racist. Of course, that is conjecture based on deductive logic. Still, it seems logical considering their long history of ill civil behavior towards anyone who does not fit the “American Dream” demographic.
Greyhound is a freight carrier that saves on taxes by pretending to be for passengers. They also like to put out the lie that they are the good guys providing transportation for the economically oppressed. That helps them to steal our tax dollars. Greyhound is not a favor to anyone. I am sure a public service could do a better job than Greyhound. Greyhound gets millions of dollars in subsidies to do the worst job possible. Over 100 years in service and it continues to be an awful experience for anyone not white, and currently Greyhound is pretty horrific, even for white people. It is the worst way to travel long-distance for your mental health. It ruins the reputation of mass transit for future generations.
Be five years old on the Greyhound and make the mistake of using their scary bathroom. Be 18 and dumped off on the edge of hell in Los Angeles, and you will forever view a car as a necessity.
Greyhound is one of the best advertising the car has.
Greyhound should be put out of misery for the good of busses everywhere. It needs to be given to a rescue agency and rehomed. The damage it inflicts by being able to call itself transit is immeasurable.