Weekly Writing Challenge: A dialogue on discrimination

“Why don’t you back to your own country you Paki bastard” , murmured the school uniform-clad, 14 year old skipping school.

“Mainly because I’m not from Pakistan. Now get out before I call the police!” , I yelled back, as I increasingly lost patience over the few weeks of being harassed by a group of children.

This was in my first year at University and my first unexpected encounter of racism by one; a child, two; a child who is British born but of Pakistani descent. I didn’t mind being called Paki because it seemed to me to be an abbreviation for Pakistani and for all you know I could have very easily been mistaken for Pakistani! But of course, the negativity that trailed the word Paki followed by such vile profanity from a teenager’s mouth told me it was about time I stopped letting these kids get too comfortable in our uni hall’s recreation room.

It didn’t occur to me that this was in the slightest bit racist though, until my friends told me so. And even then I thought they were being overly sensitive. I blew this off as the rebellious thoughtlessness of teen-aged hormones. But it was pointed out to me, “if it were a white person that said that to you would you consider it racist?”. Beat of a second. I would. It then worried me that they didn’t make any racial slurs at my Caucasian friends but picked on the person most like themselves, ethnically. Was I an easier target for racism even by my fellow South Asians? A speculation is that they’re now British while I’m fresh off the banana boat. Of course none of this excuses their behaviour in any way but figuring out the roots of the issue is the way to go is it not!

Calls of ‘curry-stinker’ and random roadside yells of ‘I know where you live, you curry-whore’ and other such gravy based ignorant comments have been experienced by my friends who are British but of various south Asian descent. They largely ignored these comments because intelligence was never known to enter the mind via an open mouth and to tell them to shut it would only instigate more moronic statements. And now Miss America is an American from New York, who happens to be of Indian descent, and will be using her 50,000 dollar winnings to put herself through med-school. But some others saw this brilliant and beautiful young woman’s win as an opportunity to display their chronic ignorance, which I guess on a social network instigates retweets and favourite-ising of  idiotic backward minded tweets like (courtesy of Buzzfeed):

ImageImageImageImage

Nina Davuluri rose above all the negative tweets and put it down to the ignorance of, hopefully, a minority. But the positive comments from tens of thousands congratulating Nina’s hard work and victory trumped all the negativity! Nevertheless, it is a right shame there still exists such bigotry, lack of geographical knowledge and insensitivity towards stereotyping.

I have always been surrounded by a largely tolerant international crowd of people. I hadn’t ever come across a potentially scarring racist experience. They have either been non-existent or racial barriers have been broken through mere communication and appreciation of each other’s ethnicities. The whole world is mixing and racism will only be met by a barrage of intolerance from the majority. Get with the program.

 

I add this 2 days after I posted this-

A trip to a branch of Morrison’s, a large supermarket chain in the UK,  went very wrong for my flatmate and I yesterday. We entered, walked about the food section trying to figure out what to get for lunch and dinner. Back and forth between the frozen aisle to the fresh food and then on to the alcohol section to get a few drinks for a housewarming we were heading to later that night. I offer to pay for the alcohol, while he pays for the food and we separate, standing at two checkout lanes. The two cashiers then have a murmured discussion between the two of them and then tell me they can’t sell me the alcohol because my friends don’t have id. So I, taken aback, explain, “You mean friend, singular, right? And he has id and would be more than willing to show it I’m sure”. While I say this I point to my flatmate at the adjoining checkout point. But the cashier looks a few aisles down and says “No,I mean those friends”, pointing to a group of young east Asians on their way out of the store.

Now, to make things a bit clearer. My flatmate is of Chinese descent but Swedish born and bred. His knowledge of anything Chinese is close to nil except for his tolerance of spicy food and love for east Asian films. Apart from that his thought process and mannerisms are extremely Swedish.

So post rejecting that we knew the other group, who were already outside by now, the cashiers begin to tell us they saw us ‘talking to the east Asian group’ in the alcohol aisle and hence can’t sell us alcohol unless all of us have id. ‘The customer is always right’ is obviously not a motto in this store because despite my flatmate and I vehemently rejecting the fact that we were friends or even knew or exchanged a word with the group, the cashiers refuse to believe us.

It then dawns on me that they think this because my flatmate is of the same ethnic looks as the group! Blood boiling, trying my hardest to seem civil, I tell them, “We do not know that group and I believe it is discriminatory of you to imply that we know them because they happen to be of the same ethnicity as my flatmate”. To which an absolutely unhelpful and unapologetic deputy manager says “It is not because they are of the same ethnicity but because all of you are of the same age group and if my employees tell me they saw you chatting, I have to take their word for it”. I am now losing patience and all ideas of civility. “Is it common practice to assume all the Asians in the store must know each other? Because if it was the age group factor, why weren’t we assumed to be associated with the 3 German guys ‘of the same age group as us’ who were also buying alcohol and standing closer to us than the East Asian group?”.

Still no apology and the same answer “It is not because they are of the same ethnicity as your friend but because all of you are of the same age group we have to assume you were together, and if my employees tell me they saw you chatting, I have to take their word for it”. Chanted like a mantra at every obstacle I put in their cracked argument.

I demand to see CCTV footage to prove we had ‘talked’ to the group. They say they went over it and that it was too blurry and dark down that aisle to see us or for that matter if we had even talked to them. But they still have to assume we are friends or know each other somehow. So much for CCTV being useful for crime prevention or in our case, discrimination, in that store.

My flatmate has never come across such apparent discrimination and we were both shocked by the unapologetic, unprofessional stance of the employees at Morrisons ! It is disgraceful that such a large prominent company would have such terrible customer service policies and act in such a way to a regular customer.  To be denied buying alcohol on the assumption that we Asians may be buying it for the other Asians in the shop is ludicrous. And despite the offensive  far-fetched accusations and dubious proof, there was no apology or compensation for our wasted time or the rudeness we encountered. Thoroughly disappointed in the blundering ways of Morrisons’ customer service.

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