Friday, 25 November 2011

Casual bus racism

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.


TIBS said...

My own belief is that with older generations there was a lot less chance that they knew people of 'other origins' whether in everyday life or during school years. Later generations possibly saw a little more in both instances but even during my time at school, someone of 'other origins' was rare; I remember primary school having one person in the whole year ('Indian'), and in high school I believe there was again only one 'other', a Pakistani lad.

Nowadays, it's a lot more common-place (or at least that's the impression I get when walking through the 'town') for various 'others' to have integrated in the last 15 years or so. That's not fact, that's just my own impression.

Now, obviously it's easier to be a racist and 'express' racism when there are a minority to which you are doing it to. I believe, with the apparent increase of 'others' said racists are more likely to keep their opinions/bigotry to themselves - after all, I wouldn't be at all surprised if a raging racist ranting off in a pub full of like-'minded' people wouldn't be so quick to spout it if they found themselves in the minority. I think that's as much the reason for the rare expressions of racism by the older generations, along with the simple fact they never 'integrated' in the way kids today seem to.

I imagine these same people likely hold similar views towards gays. It pretty much stems from not actually seeing in either case a person behind the colour or sexual preference, and it's 'not the norm'. However, had they been brought up in a 'society' where it was 'the norm' then chances are they would've turned out different. Of course, there's also the fact that some people are nice and some are.. not.

On the whole, I don't think this is a particularly racist area, and of those here who are, if they weren't being racist they'd be calling someone ginger, fat, slapper, or whichever popped into their heads when the opportunity arose.

In short, older generations, less integration socially thus more inclined to be prejudiced - though I don't believe that's a majority by any stretch.

My generation, not too likely to be friends with 'other types', though not at all necessarily due to a dislike let alone racism, however, still a fair share of mindless idiots who would be malicious for whatever reasons take their fancy.

The young 'uns, a lot more integration, more likely to have 'others' as friends and not see why that should be anything unusual. Still plenty of idiots though, but maybe with a different 'target audience'.

Some, I think is just purely down to ignorance rather than malice. In some cases, one man's comment might not be seen as being racist by the person saying it, e.g. "What time does the Paki's close?", or "That Chinkies was lovely". Personally, I don't have a problem with that as there is no maliciousness involved, however at the same time I wouldn't be using either term in earshot of said 'others'. I suppose you could equate that to laughing at funny jokes but then knowing who and who not to repeat them to. 'Discretion', I think's the word I'm looking for with that.

I would also point out that rubbish which is printed in 'newspapers' for political reasons has an obvious effect on people as well, particularly with regards to immigration. Some of the xenophobia seen in various rags is more than capable of stirring up 'angry mobs' - just look at the BNP getting any votes whatsoever, doubtless by people swanning off to Spain, Greece, Turkey, and Tenerife for their holidays..

(I should point out what I'd've hoped was obvious, that my constant use of "others" was of course me being satirical, if that's the word!)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here at time of publishing but may be subject to change. :)

Mosher said...

It's been a long time since I lived in the area, but I don't recall any noticeable racism in the area when I was there.

Especially compared with where I moved to (and since away from) - Bradford. Holy *shit* that place is bad.

The thing is, it cuts both ways. You have the white racists going on about all the ... well, I won't repeat the words. But then you have all the South Asian immigrants and descendants thereof who treat the whites like crap, especially the women.

My experience was more that it was a young (14-25 year old) male S.Asian thing than anything else. Just a chance to act like a wanker and open your big mouth like a tough guy while you're around a handful of your mates and outnumbering the people you're antagonising. Not so much racism as bullying - and they're both as pathetic as each other.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking of moving up North from London with my 2 children and generally have experienced far less Newcastle than in London and other parts of the UK. Ipswich bring the worst.

One of the main factors from us moving in the fact that the vast majority of people in Newcastle are so friendly. That and the cost of living compared to London.