Monday, February 06, 2006
Black-Eyed Peace...Racism and Hatred in Multicultural London
"Hey, Nandini...can you do me a favour? Can you tell my teammates I'm ill?"
"What the fuck happened to you? You look like you got beaten up!"
"I did get beaten up."
That was the beginning of a conversation with one of three friends of mine who got beaten up recently on university campus. They were walking back from one of the bars on campus, and all of a sudden, a couple of guys approached them. British Asians or British Middle-Easterners, from appearance. One of them put his arm around this friend of mine and asked "What's your name man?"
And the guy told him.
"Where are you from? Hanh? Where you from? Pakistan, eh?"
And that was when he got a black eye. And at that minute there were some twenty more anti-Pakistan racists on the spot, joining in the beating. When another friend tried to interfere, she got beaten up too, and according to the third one, who had a breathing attack, she had blood all over her face, and had to be taken to hospital.
They're trying to identify the attackers now, but how three not-quite-sober people will identify a crowd of twenty they'd never met before, I'm not sure.
The point though, is why is there so much racial intolerance? What do people learn about a particular race that makes them hate them so much? There was the incident of Anthony Walker a while ago. Recently, a friend of mine from Kenya and I were walking to her place, and we were rather wary of a couple of teenagers on the tube who kept giving us dirty looks and got out at the same stop that we did. They were playing with large metal baton-like instruments, and I was freaked.
A lesbian friend of mine told me once that teenagers are the scariest phenomenon in London. She was walking to her hairdresser's, when two girls outside sneered "uggghhhh! Look at that thing! I can't stand dykes!" She hurried into the hairdresser's. When she told me the incident, she glared and said "If it had happened back in my own country, I'd've boxed their ears! But here, I was just so scared!" Another time, she and her friend were on a bus and a girl in front of them was vehement in her hatred of lesbians, to the guy travelling with her. "We thought she was going to turn around and hit us or something. We were so frightened we got out at the next stop."
Why???? When you leave countries where you think you've seen religious or communal racism, where homosexuality is illegal, and you move to London, you'd think you've left all that behind. But here, you see two different extremes. People either don't seem to notice where you come from, except for the occasional "how come you Indians speak English so fluently?" (which only requires an explanation of how the medium of education is English and we learn our own mother tongues as a second language), or they hate you for not being something you should be. Hatred one can deal with. But when hatred transfuses into threats and beatings, one cannot.
Fear is the most frightening thing, we're told as kids. Fear of going into a dark room, fear of going out after 9:00 p.m., for fear of the "eve-teasers" who sexually assault women in India, fear of violence. But fear is also the most humiliating thing. It makes one feel inadequate, and angry at oneself. I could twist that bastard's arm in a minute, you think. But at that moment, you can't. There've been enough times when I was assaulted back in India, and I always thought I should have hit out at all the scrawny men who initiated the "eve-teasing", but I was simply paralysed at the time. When I came here and could walk alone in the middle of the night without being "eve-teased", I assumed I was safe. But now, I doubt it.