“Racial prejudices still lurks in our everyday lives”

Trigger Warning: Racist language

 

My skin colour has always worked for me. I grew up in Tooting, one of London’s most highly populated Asian areas. My mum is Sri Lankan and my Dad is English. They sit at the polar ends of the color spectrum. Her hair is black, his is orange and mine is brown. Colour has never been something rigid or restricting for me. But these things crop up don’t they, every now and then. Everybody faces little flecks of discrimination in their every day, whether we notice or not, whether that discrimination is intentional or not. My dad says that our society is run on discrimination, and its only when you get caught out that the trouble starts.

So a few weeks ago I get into a taxi, and the driver, a helpful and fairly chatty bloke, tells me that he can stop at the ‘paki shop’ where I’ll be able to buy that alcohol I was after. This is a term that seems to crop up more than you’d expect. Oddly the phrase seems to be deemed okay when the word ‘shop’ is stuck on the end. The three of us in the back exchange a glance. The remainder of our journey is rather quieter than before. Now that little incident is forgotten after a short amount of time, minutes even. I carry on with my day. It doesn’t happen a lot. It fades from memory. But that glance shared between the three of us in the back seat said it all. How embarrassing. We are mortified at his ignorance, at the casual way in which the comment was passed. And with a ‘brown’ person in the back too! We climbed out of that cab reminded, however briefly, that racial prejudice still lurks in our every day lives, no matter how insignificant the incident. Racism is never ineffectual. The problem is, that cabby returned to his rank, ate his lunch, made more fares, read the paper (acquired from said shop), picked the kids up, headed to the pub, settled into his evening bath oblivious to the little offence he had caused that day. Perhaps oblivious to the fact that had his mate from behind the counter in the little shop by the station, the bloke who had sold him the paper for the last 5 years, would cringe with shame at the modern day use of such a tiny, simple phrase, directed vaguely at a man whose family originated from a land thousands of miles from Pakistan any way.

Of course there is fully intentional racism too, and perhaps this is worse, though neither is great. One incident springs to mind, and it wasn’t me this happened to, this was my mum. Out shopping she unfolded a jumper and replaced it onto the shelf, folded rather more unevenly than the pristine way the sales assistant always manages. Obviously feeling snappy, the sales assistant snarled that the customer was an  ‘animal’. We’ve always found it slightly amusing that this lovely little incident occurred in United Colors of Benetton. There beneath the famous 90’s ad campaigns that pictured a rainbow colored assortment of people wearing cashmere and getting off. Remember those? Ideals starkly contrasted alongside reality, and right in the shopping centre of Guildford too! This sort of racism is more difficult to excuse, and is the commentary of someone sorely misinformed. When prejudices are ingrained in someone’s mind like this, they are far harder to dislodge and this is a can of worms I wont delve into here. My point is, just be aware. Nobody wants to be pigeonholed in the same box as the Benetton bitch! I end with one of my mum’s most practiced phrases from when we were younger – ‘accidents only happen when you’re being careless’. Remember that racism is never ineffectual, and drive carefully.


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