I was on the bus to the coast earlier this week when a man got on and sat behind J and I. He was in his 60s and seemed enamoured with J, chatting to me about him and saying what a gorgeous baby he is.
'Have lots more,' he said, and I nodded and smiled, thinking that it was nice this man thought that kids were such a blessing.
But... then he finished his sentence. I was so shocked that I don't remember his exact words, but it was something along the lines of 'before the bla.cks have loads of babies and take over the country'.
I was so horrified I didn't know what to say. On the spur of the minute I couldn't even think what to say to even hint just how inappropriate I found his comments. How (ironically) English - that I didn't feel able to just say... well, anything at all.
It's only the second time I've experienced something like that. The first time I was in a taxi, discussing chip shops with the driver. He recommended one to me, and after telling me how good the chips were, added conspiratorially 'and it's white, you know'.
It took me a good minute or two to figure out what the hell he actually meant.
And it actually put me off going there. Because what if someone somewhere thinks that that's why I go there??
I'd love to know if these attitudes are prevalent but usually hidden round here, or rare and that's why these two happenings stick out in my memory. But at the end of the day, I'm white. If people are racist I'm not going to experience that from other white people, am I?
But I have a friend with a mixed-race baby, and I'm sad for her. Because sooner or later they will experience racism. I hope it's later, but... you never know when these things are going to happen, do you?
I'm curious. Those of you that live in Newcastle, how much racism do you see in your day to day lives? If you've lived elsewhere do you think the north east is better or worse than other areas of the UK? And what the hell could I have said on these two occasions to make these guys think twice before sharing these opinions in public again without making the rest of my journey too horrendous? Should I just have put up with horrendous? Does having J with me make any different to what I'm honour bound to do? (I guess over the years it will make it more important to speak up... I don't want to teach him that racism is OK or that it's OK to let it go unchallenged.)
Really interested to hear your thoughts.