Here I reblog an outstandingly insightful piece that really made me consider how fortunate it is not just to be colour blind but to live in a country where that is the norm.
Having spent most of my youth in Scotland and only summers in the U.S., I am more accustomed to people being outspokenly appalled in the face of immortality like racism than I am to the kind of separation S.K describes.
But I did see it. I have seen both norms.
I recall a train ride I once took to Edinburgh when I was a young teenager. I used to travel through to the capital every December- my friends and I made it a Christmas ritual to go to the German market held there in winter. What I witnessed was an incident that made me consider that violence isn’t always physical and neither is it always wrong. One of the Scottish imperatives that we are famous for is aggression, which actually can be useful in the right time and place. Our answer to a man trying to bomb our main airport gate was for an ordinary (slightly dim witted) civilian to grab him, head butt him and restrain him. We don’t consider the civilian an extraordinary hero, only a banal one. What he did was considered the right thing to do and also perfectly predictable. The Scottish answer to immorality is swift aggression, decisive violence, and concluding indifference; no pride for having done something within the grey-area and no shame at having hurt another human being either. We consider it as if they brought it upon themselves by being immoral and so they suffer the social consequences. In Canada similar situations have led to lawsuits and by any moral standard the person in the right still ends up getting sued for resorting to less than polite means. A while back I remember a story that hit the media from Canada about a man who had defended a young boy from a beating by his father, and in so doing hit the father. After police arrived the defender was arrested, the boy was left with his abusive father and later the defender was sued. Brits aren’t fond of suing others or of child beaters, so a story like that is far more unusual to us.
What I saw was an African man speaking on the phone and then be cajoled by a young jumped up NED (non-educated delinquent, aka Chav) as if he were speaking too loudly. When I say he was African I don’t mean descendant; he actually had a thick accent and was speaking in a different language. Understandably talking loudly on the phone in public can be irritating, and had this fellow been loud I think it less likely that he would have been defended. It stood in his favor that actually he was barely audible, the NED had a certain distasteful swagger about they way he got onto the train and put his feet on the seats, and he actually associated calling someone black with a curse word. I don’t think saying that someone is black is inherently wrong, it’s just when you know it’s been used with other terms that imply inferiority in some way. So this twat leans forward across the aisle to the African guy and says, “shut-up ye black bastard; no one wants to listen to that gobbledygook racket!” The swagger in his voice, the ownership of cursing race and not just the man, the implication that somehow the gentleman’s language was nonsense and inferior instilled absolute silence in the carriage. The African’s voice hadn’t reached all of them, but the trumped up NED’s did. So, the gentleman said something to his friend on the phone to close the conversation, but when he hung up it was clear from his expression he didn’t know what to say or do. He was the only black man in that carriage- could he be sure to be protected if an altercation broke out? If I hadn’t been 13 and timid I would hope that I would have been the one to get up and say something. Thankfully there was another banal hero on the train. This big burly white guy- very Scottish with red hair, and blue eyes- gets up from a few seats down and comes right up close to the NED. In a thick Scottish accent he tells him that he’s wrong, “naw wee man. It’s you that should keep yer mouth shut if that’s the kind of racist crap ye want te come out wi’.” Being full of swagger, the young guy did push back. He shoved the burly guy away from him and got up. But Big Burly guy had friends. When the conductor got to the carriage the ‘wee man’ was already restrained and the conductor okayed putting him off the train at the next station. I remember seeing the African gentleman’s face afterward. He was in total shock and Big Burly on his way back to his seat said something to the effect that he was sorry he had had to go through that and promised that that had not been acceptable. He wished the remainder of his stay in Scotland to be more pleasant.
So small audience- was that freedom of speech? Unacceptable violence? Does the acceptance of violence have the potential to go wrong? When there are no clear sides of right and wrong what should we do? Leave it to the law; the forever black and white law that isn’t entirely capable of dealing with grey matters? And the situation I’ve described would have been a clear win for the African man even in the eyes of law, but would it be as effective? The aftermath of the comment if no one had done anything would have meant that either the gentleman would have had to sit there uncomfortable and still an open target, move to the next carriage and then the person in the wrong would have won, or he may have ended up saying something to defend himself that would have ended in direct altercation and physical damage to himself. What I ask you is, do we not use our own freedom of speech to stand up for others as a consequence to others socially unacceptable use of it? In America, that NED would have had every right to say whatever he liked and so would be free of any persecution by the law. But should that also mean that he is free from social persecution? “If people carry on like that, they’ll get their comeuppance in the end,” only if we act. Only if we actually use our freedom of speech to enact that comeuppance. Should you not wish to put yourself in danger to protect someone else then I’m not sure you know what it is that’s worth getting hurt for. Of all the things where I would put my own safety last it would be in the face of racism or classism.
I leave you with one more anecdote, and this is to disillude those that might think that I can’t understand what it would be like to live in America. There have been racist individuals on youtube who have called me out and said that I can’t possibly know why separation is better for everyone’s safety, because I live in a country that’s mostly white. BS.
On a flight to America (why this always happens en route to somewhere I don’t know) when I was about 7-years-old I distinctly remember an incident between my Mum and an older white woman who was appalled that I had a black baby doll. The woman wanted to know why my mother would have given me such a thing. I wish I could remember Mama’s comment verbatim but I don’t. It was something like, “why shouldn’t she have a black doll if it’s just as possible that she might have a black baby when she’s older?” The responding comment was racially charged and spoke of not mixing race and also, not adopting another race. Mama must have decided it wasn’t worth the argument and just ignored her after that. What I distinctly remember though, is that this was the first thing I’d ever heard that didn’t immediately make sense. I must have believed that it perfectly possible for black couples to give birth to white children, and white couples to give birth to black children. Clearly I had no grasp of genetics whatsoever. I chose that baby doll myself in the shop- to me at the time the white ones looked kind of ugly.