VTA bus driver fired for racist comment

The driver was ‘terminated from employment, effective immediately.’

37
Kevin Brooks, who commutes from New Bedford to Edgartown for work, relies on the bus to get to and from the ferry. — Courtesy Kevin Brooks

Updated July 13

A Vineyard Transit Authority (VTA) bus driver was fired after refusing to pick up a man who is black, the bus service said Thursday in a prepared statement.

Kevin Brooks, a barber who commutes to the Island from New Bedford, and regularly takes the VTA, was waiting to take the bus from Edgartown to Oak Bluffs after getting out of work.

Brooks told the Times he flagged down the Route 13 bus on Beach Road near Oakdale Drive in Edgartown, but it drove past him. Brooks said the buses will usually tell him they are at capacity.

Having to catch the 5:20 pm ferry out of Oak Bluffs to New Bedford, Brooks immediately called an Uber to Oak Bluffs. Arriving shortly after the bus, Brooks confronted the driver and asked why he passed him. The driver replied, “Well, it’s because you are black.”

Saying he’s been called “everything under the sun” throughout his life, Brooks told the Times this comment was different: “I am from the South. If I feel racism I deal with it. For the first time in my life I had to swallow it. I’ve never felt more disrespected or belittled in my life. I had trouble sleeping that night.”

It was the first time he has experienced such a comment on the Island, and an emotional Brooks then called the VTA, which said they would look into the matter and give him an answer by the end of the day Thursday.

“Upon review of the onboard audio/video footage, it was determined the vehicle operator responded to the person’s inquiry by saying the bus was full, and when the person challenged this response, the operator stated, ‘Well, it’s because you are black,’” according to the VTA release.

The VTA said it has a “zero tolerance policy for this type of behavior,” and that the bus driver was then fired. The Times reached out to the VTA about the incident on Thursday morning, but did not hear back until Friday afternoon. Instead, the transit company issued the press statement.

VTA administrator Angie Grant told the Times Friday she spoke with Brooks Thursday evening to apologize and inform him that the male bus driver had been fired. Grant declined to give the driver’s name, adding that she was not the driver’s direct supervisor and could not speak on his history with the VTA or if any complaints about him had been filed before. VTA employees receive annual training that covers interaction with the public.

A request for information on complaints, employee evaluations, and public records of the driver was denied by the VTA.

Grant said in her nearly 20 years at the VTA, she had never seen an incident like this. “We have never had to deal with this. I’m hopeful that something like this will never occur again,” Grant said.

When asked if the VTA offered any reimbursement to Brooks for his Uber ride, Grant said, “He did not ask for that,” and that he is always welcome to contact the VTA.

Saying he never wants to take someone’s job or livelihood, Brooks said he will always stand up for himself and what is right. “Maybe he was having a bad day and the wrong thing came out of his mouth,” Brooks said, adding he doesn’t believe the driver is a racist. “I’m not about any drama at all. I just want to provide for my family. I’m not here for a political debate.”

Going forward, Brooks said, he has contacted the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and a civil rights attorney to look into the matter: “The video shows everything, that’s all I’ll say. This isn’t over, I want to get this out there.”

Updated with more details from the VTA. -Ed.

37 COMMENTS

  1. The driver’s behavior and words are A CLEAR EXAMPLE OF RACISM. he deserved to lose his job. his future employer should know why he lost his job. he should have to go to a class — like an anger management class — but for racists, so he can see the error of his ways and find an appropriate way to make up for it to Mr. Brooks.

      • Racism isn’t comparable to distaste for a political affiliation. Race is a legally protected class, political affiliation is not. And uber is a private taxi company, not public transportation. Your comparison is so inapplicably bad that I am forced to consider the possibility that you are not arguing in good faith.

      • Hanley, it sounds like you are defending the racism here with your whataboutisms that have nothing to do with this story. You wouldn’t want to defend the fact that the bus driver told the man he did not pick him up because he is black, would you?

    • I’m guessing, and hoping, that Teehump is being sarcastic by mimicking our racist President Trump when he defended white-nationalist protestesters by saying “Some very fine people on both sides”. There are no fine people who are racists. Period. It has nothing to do with anonymous posts.

        • The President of the United States said that there are fine people on both sides, meaning white nationalists on one side, and those who protest the white nationalists’ racists beliefs on the other. And still you support a president who thinks there are “fine people” who are white nationalists. No need to throw in more of your silly non sequiturs when you cannot defend the indefensible. You’ve already said it all. I know where you stand on the issue of racism. Period.

          • Also, objecting ONLY to the fact that some posters choose anonymity, when you could have objected to the racism this man endured on our island, tells us more than you intended. No racist is a fine person. Just so you know.

          • No ,President Trump was referring to the protests in Charlottesville.
            Please don’t make up lies to suit your political agenda.
            President Donald J.Trump has never defenses White Supremacist .

        • I think plenty of the posters here are fine people– perhaps even those of Mexican or Brazilian descent. Or liberals —
          There are also some that aren’t . On both sides…
          One thing for sure– racism is not a trait that I would attribute to a “fine” person

          • Ask Hanley why it’s so important for him to know the real-life names of those with opposing views.

          • I prefer not to judge anyone based on internet postings, except to say that I honor those like you who identify themselves, even if we might agree on very little.

        • Quote: “I prefer not to judge anyone based on internet postings, except to say that I honor those like you who identify themselves, even if we might agree on very little.”

          Then do us the favor of suffering in silence.

        • I suppose we are now discussing a question of fact, but nevertheless there is no excuse for racial slurs, especially in public accommodation. This was supposed to have been settled back in the 60s and 70s…

      • The bus driver did say that when Brooks first aggressively approached him and continued to argue with the driver.
        The driver should never had made such a comment but I believe it was provoked.
        He lost his job and the transit Authority has apologised for their X employee .
        It has never happened before .
        Time to move on .
        I am sure some would love to cash in on such but really?
        If we all sued every time someone said something we didn’t like we would have miles of lines outside of our court houses.

  2. @Salt. Depends on your point of view. From the standpoint of federal law it makes no difference – no matter the motivation, minorities are protected from discriminatory and abusive behavior. OTOH, there is no law against being a racist – just keep it under your hat in all areas where folks are protected by law. That said, the question arises concerning the intelligence and suitability of the fired driver; maybe some sort of vetting for drivers is in order – better make sure THAT isn’t racist. These days the snowflakes play the racist card just as often as the Nazi card.

    • I disagree. The driver was acting in capacity as an employee of the VTA. As a matter of policy the VTA should not tolerate even racist jokes or cracks from an employee on duty. Even if the bus is full the driver owes courtesy to all. He should have the smarts to practice his personal preferences off duty.

        • Statistically our views will intersect occasionally. But a true snowflake would disallow the driver the right to be a racist. My personal view is that racism is stupid, but permissible in a free country like ours.

          • Of course he has a right to say whatever he wants, however, he also has to uphold certain standards put on him by his employer, and will rightly have to suffer the consequences of his free speech. Freedom of speech is more narrowly defined than many think. You can go on a racist rant, and expect to keep a job – that is crazy.

  3. Not sure why this is hitting every news outlet.
    No damage was done here and driver was fired.
    If every person that was insulted and got their feelings hurt made headlines news and wanted to cash in ,we would ALL be standing in line outside of court rooms all across the world.
    Time to move forward .

  4. After reading this article and doing some investigation myself to find out the entire event of what happened because surely we can’t allow people to Deny access to public transportation just because of thier skin color .
    I spoke with a couple of people that were on that bus and they said that Kevin was very aggressive when he approached the driver and not happy with driver stating he did not stop because the bus was at its full capacity and that’s she the driver said ok it was because you are black.
    They being said, the driver should not have responded with that comment no matter how much KB agitated him.
    Transit authority immediately reviewed the audio and relieved the driver and apologised for the comment.
    I researched KB public pages and I found him to be an agitator with his constant berating of People that support certain public officials.
    What loss did and trauma did he really get from this event?
    Now a lawsuit?
    It’s getting very heated out there today with politics but if you can’t take the heat then don’t dish it out.

Previous articleSaudade: News from and for the Brazilian community
Next articleAirport parking system still working out kinks