Yesterday as a friend and I were along a road next to Chinatown, a bunch of young teenage white boys walked past us, and one of them poked his head forward and said: “China” to our faces, which I found bizarre enough.
In another beat, probably in a bid to appear cool and to up his friend’s “China” comment (statement? insult?), another member of the group sneered: “Bitches”
And I’m thinking: Dude… you’re next to Chinatown of places! Is it Surprising to find chinese people walking around?
I’m this petite, harmless girl walking along minding my own business, enjoying one of my rare moments out of the office, breathing in foul London air. Why me?
I am disturbed, but dismiss the incident as the result of silly adolescent boredom.
Later that night, at 11.10pm at night as I was walking past Holborn station to take a bus home, I heard a guy shout from the shadows: “Chinese cunt” in my direction.
It had been a long day, it was a quiet street, and I was wearing heels. I decided that confronting the guy was probably more hassle than it was worth. So I ignored him and walked on.
But I was upset. Dismayed. I try to brush it off as just isolated incidents of random insular and ill-bred nonentities taking out their frustration on passer-bys. And that is probably true. As a whole, I believe that Londoners aren’t racists. London is too mixed-up, too much of a cultural melting pot for that.
But that’s why it came as an even greater shock to me. London is so incredibly cosmopolitan. And yet, even here!
Maybe London has been too open and welcoming of diverse cultures and immigrants that the locals have become disenfranchised and this is part of a backlast post bomb blasts. Certainly, I get the sense that there has been a noticeable increase in the Oriental population since I first came to London in October 2001.
I’ve never been the target of overt racism. Or at least I’ve been too good-natured and/or oblivious to notice it. This is my first experience with it. And even though it’s relatively mild, and in theory, I can rationalise it away, it is still not a pleasant feeling.
And it has made me think. While I’ve always been against racism, I’ve never actually thought about the effects on peoples’ lives. For the first time, I have a real sense of empathy for the people who are the targets of racism.
I guess I’ve been lucky or privileged enough to escape from such attitudes thus far, such that I’ve almost forgotten that the most negative, overt and hostile kind of racism still exists. Racism has always been more of a theoretical concept than a tangible one for me.
It is discouraging to think that even in London, attitudes from the Dark Ages can still exist. The road ahead is a long one I fear.