After witnessing racism on a London bus, SARAH MORGAN considers the trouble with splitting people into ‘us’ and ‘them’
The bus is a derided place. People will tell you that it is full of ne’er-do-wells and trouble-makers. The truth is, it is full of a broad cross section of humanity. The trouble with humanity is that it is human; not every living soul is a divine gift from heaven, modelling themselves on the teachings of whichever god you may believe in.
OK, OK I hear you shout. What is your point?
If you travel on this bundle of humanity a lot, you will hear all sorts from the truly beautiful to the truly ugly. On this occasion, I turn your attention to the ugly.
A verbal fight broke out on the lower deck of my double-decker bus the other day and, given my experiences of how London can be sometimes, I headed downstairs to check what was up.
I hadn’t heard the intervening discussion but the words I heard when I came downstairs were something along the lines of: “This is not about race, don’t go there.” “Yes, I will go there, when you lot complain everyone acts. When we complain nothing happens.” I should add the second speaker was white.
After her sparring partner left the bus, I saw this woman cradling her child in her arms. As it was clear that no-one was going to get beaten up, I went back upstairs to sit in peace.
This exchange got me thinking once again about “them” and “us” mentalities. Now it seems likely the woman with the child was clearly harbouring racist prejudices.
So why be such a coward and talk about “them” and “us” thinking? I’ll tell you.
This attitude does not only rear its ugly head when race is involved. It gets connected to politics or the band that you like or the clothes that you wear as well.
Racism is a horrendous thing, which divides communities and narrows people’s minds. However, we can all be guilty of putting people in a metaphorical box they can’t escape. My point is: boxes never bring us together. Boxes keep us apart.
Whether you’re the white woman feeling persecuted by the black community, the black community being persecuted by the white or the hard left throwing insults at all those to the right, if you start a fight, you will get one.
The problem with starting fights of this nature is no-one can break out of their box. You are either a Montague or a Capulet. A Jew or a goy. A disabled person or an able-bodied person.
We create these boxes in order to describe and appreciate the world. However, if we identify too closely with the fact we are a white woman or a black woman, we forget that we are women. Then yet again if we identify too closely with the fact we are women, we forget we are also people.
The great thing about identifying first as a person is you realise more value in treating others as you would wish to be treated.
Because it does not mean treat my white friend, or my conservative friend, or even my friend as I would wish to be treated, it means see the human next to you and see in them their humanity. Then you might find instead of starting a fight you start a conversation.