Having read Mshairiâ€™s post on last nightâ€™s TV programme, and having watched the second half of the show I couldnâ€™t help but recount one of the craziest forms of racism that I have faced whilst living in Lancaster.
For those who donâ€™t know Lancaster, here is a brief summary of the townâ€™s unwritten race relations policy.
- Referring to a black person as coloured, irrespective of any objections a black person may raise, is considered inoffensive.
- On the rare occasion that one black person steps into a public place a few white people present may stop and stare at said black person.
- On the even rarer occasion that two or more black people should occupy the same space at the same time then most, if not all white people present may stop and stare at one or all of the black people present.
What follows is a real life example of a white person who decided, without prior warning, to add a whole new section to our race relations policy.
This scene takes place in one of the many chain pubs that has taken over Lancaster. Nothing usual about the setting, it just gives me a good excuse to mention our former local pub. This was the only pub that let you bring your own music and gave you a free drink for acting as DJ. I refuse to get over the fact that it is â€˜under new managementâ€™.
Getting back to the story, I was in the company of Mich, my two siblings, a cousin and a friend. There was a white lady sat at the table opposite ours, with her back to us. I am going to call her Claire, or as we say in the North, Clurr. Every so often Clurr would glance over her shoulder and look at us. After a few minutes of craning her neck she decided to turn her chair slightly so that she could keep one eye on her crowd and the other on â€˜us coloured folkâ€™.
In case I am accused of ‘playing the race card’ (a subject worthy of its own blog entry!) here are my reasons:
- We were sat against a wall â€“ there was nothing behind us. The wall had no distinguishing features other than the bodies of 5 black people and one white guy resting upon it.
- Black people instinctively know what counts as an â€˜is it cos I is black?â€? (Ali G vs The Police ) moment. I donâ€™t know how, we just do
- Clurrâ€™s subsequent actions â€“ what Clurr did next left no doubt in my mind that it was cos we woz black.
I am not sure at what point Clurr decided that staring was no longer good enough all I remember is getting that strange feeling of someone standing over you. I looked up and there was Clurr, leaning over our table, camera-phone in hand, clicking away. She took individual close ups of all the black people at our table. Clurr, clearly a perfectionist, paused between each take to admire her work. Satisfied, she stepped back and took one group photo. Not pleased with the result she snapped one last time before returning to her seat and showing her new pictures to her friends.
Two whole minutes later and eventually someone at our table was able to speak. It was agreed that Clurr had gone one step too far and I eagerly took on the task of setting her straight. I deliberately chose not mention race. I simply reminded her that we had a right to privacy and it would have been polite of her to ask before she took pictures of us. Clurr had obviously memorised the â€˜I am not racist; I have black friends’ speech and without prompting, began to recite it. Needless to say I too had my share of speeches memorised but I decided against the â€œI’m @?%&!-ing tired of your @%!?” speech.
Judging by Clurr’s actions I had concluded that she wasn’t the brightest of people. I opted for the confident-lawyer-talking-crap speech.
I quoted various sections of Acts (both real and imagined) that she had violated. I demanded that she delete the photographs of us and warned that if she repeated her actions, I would not only ensure that she was kicked out of this pub but I would also be pressing criminal charges as well as issuing civil proceedings against her. Clurr had obviously not expected this and neither had her friends. It was their turn to be left speechless.
Later on that night, when one third of the table had gone to dance and the other third had gone to get drinks, Clurr returned to our table, no camera in sight, and as she sat down next to me she said,
“I’m real sorry ’bout earlier. Din’t mean to upset you like. Are guys on tour or something?”