Posts Tagged ‘World Cup’

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racism in a modern age.

June 20, 2010

I just got home from my nan’s.  For the second part of my journey, I took the number 6 from town to Kingswood, and while I was on the bus, a group of Somali women were having a conversation.  Suddenly, an English woman (I’m guessing about 55 years old; she was certainly older than my mother, who is 50) turns around and yells at them “Would you please shut up?!?!” After everyone looks up, shocked, she continues her diatribe: “Natter natter (with hand gesture), shut the fuck up or get off the bus.”  The women began to protest, but the woman just got angrier and nastier, and the Somali women ended up getting off the bus at that stop.  The English woman yelled after them “Fucking go home to your own country!” After a beat of shocked silence from all the passengers, the driver (who was mixed race himself) got up and challenged the woman.  “They are allowed to chat if they want, everyone here is just trying to get home, there is no reason to disrupt anyone else’s journey or otherwise YOU will have to get off the bus.” At this point, the woman went to get off the bus, and the bus driver said “Ma’am, you can take your seat, but please respect other customers because we all paid to use this bus, and please enjoy your journey.”  The woman sat back down, but then got off at the next stop (I wonder if she was not too bothered about getting off the bus if she was only getting off at the next stop anyway?), and the rest of the bus breathed a sigh of relief.

I was shocked that in 2010, such blatant racism still exists.  Well, I am shocked and I am not; I’m not naive and I know very well that racism is very much alive and well, but I was shocked to be present at such an outrageous and blatant display of it.  I was tempted to say something myself, but at the same time it was not my place to get involved; these women are old enough and strong enough to defend themselves, and quite rightly the driver made a stand for his bus and for the passengers on it; he is running the service, not me or any of the other passengers.  I wonder however, if the driver had not said anything, whether I would have been brave enough to say something? Plenty of things sprang to my mind; to challenge her and say that if her problem was with the volume at which these women were speaking, then instead of yelling at them and thus making herself a hypocrite, she should just ask them politely if they could talk more quietly.  If this wasn’t the case, it would have exposed her own racism without saying any more (racism she already exposed with her parting comment to them as they got off the bus).  I felt like saying that if her problem was with the fact that these women were not English (I know this woman was English just by coincidence, as I saw her loudly supporting England at Rewind when I was out watching the game with my friends from uni on Friday night – she had memorable cuts and grazes on her elbow that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was the same woman), then should I get off the bus too as I am half-Italian, and I would not be here if my family had not come from another country to live here?  Until she knows the story of these Somali woman, who is she to judge whether they have (on a journey which they paid for, just like the rest of the passengers) less of a right to be on the bus and talk on the bus than her?  If I were speaking to my friends in Spanish, French or Italian, would I be less entitled to talk on the bus than if I were speaking in English? Does the fact that my skin barely looks any different to an English person’s (I am a tiny tiny bit more tanned, but it’s negligible) mean that I am not as mixed-race, or as ethnically diverse, as someone with a different skin colour? Am I entitled to the same rights as an English person simply because I speak native English, have an English surname and my skin is light; in return for these rights do I have to sacrifice my own ethnic background in the process just to fit in?

When I lived in Spain, if someone had spoken to me in that way because I was speaking English on the phone or to my family, I would have been utterly outraged.  Are we literally rewinding back to the story of Rosa Parks on the bus in the USA, before Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement? It felt like it.  Another thing I wanted to point out was that, as a result of my colleague Clare’s presentation on breaking down cultural barriers in guidance, I know that Bristol is considered a popular (if that is the right word) destination for asylum seekers and refugees coming from all over the world, because it is considered a racially-tolerant city in England. This is my hometown, my city, and I am proud of that fact.  By demonstrating such a racially-intolerant attitude, this woman is not only giving a bad example of herself, but of Bristol as a city and of England as a country; in actual fact, she is making herself look stupid and only propagating bad feeling for foreign people, whatever their reason or length of stay in England, which in turn only reinforces cultural barriers rather than breaking them down.  We’re in 2010; this should never have been happening, but it should certainly not be happening in this day and age.  And so I felt that if I didn’t speak up on the bus at the time (and it turned out that it wasn’t my place, nor did I have to – quite rightly, the driver did so), the least I could do was recount the event on here and spread more awareness that these attitudes still exist in our country and are very much alive in everyday life and situations.  This needs to change, and this entry is my little contribution; in my forthcoming job as a Personal Tutor at Cirencester College, one of the things I may well have to do in both interviews and group sessions is work on challenging racial stereotypes and breaking down cultural barriers and misconceptions.

Funnily enough, only earlier my nan and I were discussing the nature of football fans (topical considering that it is currently the World Cup).  English fans, deservedly or undeservedly, have a reputation for being violent, thuggish and neanderthal-like throughout Europe and possibly worldwide.  At the bar on Friday night, there was a fair amount of brainless chanting, stomping and cursing; but then, England did play poorly and I suppose that if so many people are passionate about this, it amasses a certain amount of volume.  I personally don’t like that kind of behaviour, but in itself it’s not racist; it’s only when it either causes damage or turns nasty against other ethnicities, races or against people of other countries that it’s inexcusable.  Nevertheless, I believe in conducting myself in a dignified way at all times whenever and wherever possible; by living up to hooligan stereotypes, England fans only propagate this image of themselves nationally and internationally; it’s not vogue and it doesn’t do the country or the sport any favours.  What’s more, my nan made a very good point that why do many England fans only support England during the football; if they really liked football, why do they not watch or show any interest in the matches involving other countries? Is it about the sport, or is it about the country? If it is about the country, why act so intimidating when watching the football (as opposed to other sports)? Surely this only sends out the wrong kind of message, a bad example to everyone – that this is how England fans behave, and that this country accepts that behaviour as tolerable and normal for football fans towards each other, and towards other people both from this country and from outside it?  I know that there are plenty of people who support England in the World Cup who don’t act this way – a lot of my friends fall under this category – and if I were them I would be somewhat embarrassed and angry that this reputation precedes me.  Everyone is entitled to behave in their own way, but I really wish we considered the feelings and cultures of others more than we do.

A final anecdote, in case I sound holier than thou – I’m not perfect.  When I was 12 years old, I once used a racial slur – I am ashamed to say.  Even more stupidly, it was towards a friend of mine whom I had known for 7 or 8 years by that time; he was acting in a very irritating way during a DT lesson, and out of sheer frustration and for pure shock value, I told him to “shut up you Paki”. Now, I am not racist nor have I ever been – so why portray myself in that way? Even though I was a child, I knew better before and after that event, and yet I did it. It had the desired effect, but I belittled myself by doing it, and my friend (to his credit) handled it very classily by laughing and saying in response to my immediate apology: “Um, no offence taken because I am Indian so that’s not what I am”.  His response made me feel all the more ashamed because not only had I attempted to use a racist expression in order to shut him up, I had used it in an incorrect context; it showed up my foolish behaviour for what it was.  Our friendship did not suffer for it; in fact I believe that the event was all but forgotten by breaktime, but it taught me a valuable lesson: that kind of behaviour is never acceptable, never appropriate, and never necessary.  I apologised profusely and he forgave me, but even recalling that incident makes me feel ashamed 12 years on; I was old enough to know better, and the lessons I learned as a result of that event are the redeeming factor; I have never thought or acted in that way since, and I am now in a position of responsibility to challenge others who do so. During a practice day, I successfully challenged one young person’s attitude to immigrants and the labour market; during my job at Cirencester, I anticipate doing this kind of thing more.  In this blog entry, I have also tried to challenge this behaviour.  Thankyou for reading.

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dream – infidelity and paulina rubio.

June 19, 2010

I was saying to one of my friends that it’s been a while since I blogged one of my dreams! I guess that sometimes if you speak something, it has a funny way of coming into existence.  I also must give some credit to the kebab I bought with Mike on the way back from our last course night out watching the England match (which was dull, although cheering along with the mindless supporters was amusing; I don’t think they realised Penny and I were taking the piss out of them) – the stomach ache I bear as a result, coupled with the disrupted night’s sleep I had, worked together to produce this crazy dream as well as my decision that, like crisps and popcorn, I will never eat another kebab again.  Anyway, here goes:

I found myself at university, staying in a dorm building which had several of my friends living on the same corridor as me. The hall was brightly lit, with a peach coloured carpet, and Toby lived a couple of doors down from me.  A few doors in the opposite direction, towards the end of our corridor, lived this random guy whom I don’t know in real life, and whom I didn’t know much about in the dream, except he was gay and had quite a youthful face and a happy-go-lucky, slightly crazy manner.  I remember on this particular day, Toby was getting ready to present a presentation he had worked on with his friend on a song they had written for a team they’d been given in a World Cup sweepstake.  He hadn’t let me hear the song, and he was quite nervous about it but pretending as if everything were fine.  To give him some space, I decided to get a bus and go to a string of shops which looked similar to the top of Gloucester Road, except with less shops and shops which looked even more run down than what’s there in reality.  The trip seemed fruitless, and I remember returning back to my corridor pretty promptly.

On my return, I bumped into the guy who lived near the end of the corridor.  He was burbling about something, and invited me to go back to his room. I was reluctant to go as I wanted to wish Toby luck before he started his presentation / performance, but at the same time I wasn’t sure whether it was a good idea to disturb him, so I decided to follow the guy to his room.  We chatted for a while, and then ended up having (anatomically incorrect – orifices do NOT look / contort like that!) sex.  Immediately afterwards I felt guilty, and made small talk while hurriedly getting out of there.  I ran down the corridor to find Toby, who was due to start his presentation.  I located the classroom (oddly enough further down the same corridor as where all our bedrooms were) and burst in through the open door, where Toby and his classmates were gathered in front of a lecturer standing at a lectern in front of a giant screen filled with the flags of the World Cup in some kaleidoscopic Powerpoint presentation.  Toby was stood on a chair, ostensibly about to sing his song, but everyone turned to look at me and Toby’s mouth gaped as I ran towards him, hugged his legs and nuzzled my face into his crotch.  He asked me what was wrong, but I decided to keep my infidelity to myself and said that nothing was wrong and I just wanted to wish him luck and let him know I was there for him.  At that moment, he smiled (which made me feel a combination of guilt and immense love), and the whole class sighed as if they wanted to get on with the presentation of the songs.

At this point, my stomach ache woke me up again as it had done periodically throughout the night.  I remember getting up to open the window; it was light outside and I hoped that some fresh air would do me good (as it happened, it made no difference) before getting back into bed and falling back to sleep.

I found myself going into a giant record store which reminded me of a huge Virgin Megastore from back in the day.  When I walked in, the front of store display advertised hordes of Paulina Rubio CDs, books, DVDs and other memorabilia at knock-down prices.  I was about to start browsing – there were items that certainly caught my eye even at first glance, when I bumped into my tutor from university, Mary.  She was sat reading a book on a cube seat, and she smiled at me and started asking how I was.  We had a conversation about the book she was reading, and about what some of my favourite books were.  I then saw two women approaching her wearing skirt suits, and Mary explained that she was interviewing for the course intake for next year, so she would have to say goodbye for now.  I smiled and left the seating area as one woman sat down and began to talk to Mary, who had closed her book; the other sat on an adjacent cube and began to read a book of her own.  I was about to start browsing the Paulina Rubio merchandise, which including products which both do and don’t exist in real life, when I bumped into Simon from the careers guidance course.  He asked me if I had seen Mary; I responded by indicating the cubed seating area, but then explaining that she was doing interviews so he might have to wait for a while before he was able to speak to her.  With nothing much else to say to him, I left Simon and began to browse the shelves.

However, during my conversations with Mary and Simon, a lot of the CDs had been snapped up, and I could barely find half of the products which had been on offer when I’d first entered the shop.  I spent quite a long time rummaging and amassing quite a collection of items, when I bumped into my mother, Deena and Davina.  They said that they had come shopping looking for a birthday present for me, and immediately handed me a big box of some kind of board game, and a smaller box on top.  They said that they were going to look for some other gifts for me.  My mother immediately disappeared, and Davina and Deena went off in different directions.  I followed Deena and asked her if there was anything I could buy for Davina, but I don’t think she had any suggestions.  Eventually, I found myself left alone by them and I had to go to the till and pay for my Paulina Rubio stuff, and also for my own birthday presents!

Afterwards, I returned home with all my purchases only to find that my mother had already arrived at home.  She looked at the amount of carrier bags I had, and then she engaged me in some meaningless, forgettable conversation.  I don’t remember what was said, but I remember taking a yellow sleeping bag with me and leaving the house. I wandered the streets and before long, found a wide grey pavement outside a run-down block of flats.  For some reason, in my head I had decided that this was an orphanage, and the area of town did not look very Bristolian nor very friendly; it was all quite dilapidated, and I felt quite tired so I decided to lay down on the pavement and curled up in my sleeping bag.  However, the sleeping bag was double-sized, so I still only took up half of the bag; the other half covered the rest of the pavement.  After a few moments, Mike came strolling by as if by chance, looked down and noticed me laying on the floor (I wasn’t asleep).  He spoke to me briefly, and we chatted before he told me to budge up, got down on the pavement and slid into the sleeping bag next to me.  This time, nothing sexual happened but we just chatted for a while and I remember feeling happy and lucky that I had a friend to spend time with.

That is about it!  As always, any thoughts or light that you can shed on this is more than welcome. A few connections that I can make: I watched the World Cup match last night, so perhaps the football was in my head; I’d seen Deena earlier in the week and I remember we were walking around HMV and she was considering looking for a present for her friend’s girlfriend.  During the night out last night, I was speaking to Mike about how much his friendship meant to me and how lucky I was to have him in my life.  I also spent a lot of the evening texting Toby, who is currently sunning it up in Florida (lucky man); I miss him.  Finally, Simon was the only person who hadn’t managed to get into the bar last night where we were watching the football; although Mary wasn’t invited to watch the football with us, it is interesting that Simon is the one who was asking me about her whereabouts, as if he were looking for someone from our course just as he was last night.  But the rest of it is beyond me!!!