A Quick Post About Racism
Read this on galpod.com.
I've been deliberating about this post for a good ten minutes now. Because I want to do justice to this incredibly complex topic, but I also have to get going with my own work. I finally decided that I can't let it pass so I'll just share with you an incident I witnessed last night.
Last night, my daughter performed at a concert called "Winter Sounds" in Croydon. Both my kids participate in the Wandswork Music Services, which are doing a fantastic job making music accessible to all kids. In other words, it's a performance with a representative ethnic mix. Seeing that the audience was probably entirely composed of the performers' family members, that meant that in the foyer, waiting for the doors to open, a representative ethnic mix of adults sat on plastic chairs sipping off-Westend-theatre-quality coffee.
Bear with me as I set the stage because it's essential for the story itself. I'm sitting alone at a table of four, reading a book (The Origins of Others by Toni Morrison, serendipitously). In the table next to me is a family of three. Also sitting at a table of four.
An elderly couple, probably come to see their grandson performing, walk right past my table, go up to the table next to me, and ask the man sitting there if the fourth chair is taken. He jumps up from his chair and offers them the empty chair and his own. It all happened so fast I didn't have a chance to say, hey, there are empty chairs over here. Or even, less Britishly, why do you think that this man should give up his seat for you when there are empty chairs you can use?
I suspect, but I can't be sure, of course, that the elderly couple thought the man ought to give up his chair for them because the man in question was black. I later offered him the empty chair in my table. He refused, but he saw what I was trying to do. At that point, that was all I could do without causing a scene, something that he obviously wanted to avoid.
I was appalled. The man was resigned. Which means it happens to him quite often. It was a reminder for me that people of a visible minority group still confront these insults every day. It made me realise how privileged I am to not only be white and so not to have to deal with this kind of daily cruelty but also to be surrounded by progressive people who don't need to ridicule or torment an outgroup to feel safe.
I want a better world for my children.
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