I was thinking about writing this piece a week or so ago but was struggling to think of an introduction, there were many issues I felt I had to raise but couldn’t decide which would go first. You may have read ‘It’s not about me’ where I purged the horror of the injustice currently sweeping Britain, it was a response to all those critics who twist the points activists are trying to make into the delusional ramblings of a narcissist. Well, I think I made that point. It’s not about me; it is about all of us. If it happens to a random person on the street, it could happen to you. Unfortunately, it very recently happened to me too.
After a safe night with close friends, my best friend and I boarded a bus home. We were among the first to get on so we took the two seats closest to the front on the top deck. Usually, a male ally of ours escorts us home from wherever we are, at great cost to him. He lives about the furthest you can get from where we’re based. So on this occasion, we reassured him we’d be fine. Engrossed in conversation I felt safe with my female friend. We look after each other.
The bus slowly filled as the clubs closed their doors. Behind us, a young male started sniggering and leaned towards us to mumble something. Initially we just stared at him, trying to process what was happening. When he wouldn’t give up, I asked him to stop because he was interrupting an important conversation with my friend. This male was beige. Y’know, coloured. His right hand man was white. The two of them continued to goad us, with what I can’t even remember, because of what happened next. Scared and angry I raised my voice and announced these men were harassing us. The bus jeered. They told us to shut up and stop making a scene. Now raging on adrenalin, I told the man if he didn’t back off, I would have to smash him. Suddenly I was faced with a bus full of people who thought we were wrong. Shaking, my friend and I turned to sit but the boys would not let it drop. Spurred on by the reaction, they continued to swear at us. It was like a bad nightmare. How could this be real? And then the white man called me a paki.
I stopped for a second. Time slowed down. I looked at my bare legs, my uncovered hair and my then my friend’s face. (He didn’t, did he? Yeah, yeah he did. But what are you gonna do about it Sam?) I was thinking. Then I bellowed what he said to the rest of the bus. A crowd of white faces cheered, some white people looked awkward and the black man I picked out rolled his eyes in disbelief but then looked down at the floor. The white male lunged at my white friend and she pushed him back. Both of them were on their feet about to attack us.
Seating on the seats adjacent to us were a young male and female. They were strangers but had been making gender appropriate chit chat. The male suddenly shot up and told us we should leave the bus. I responded not a fucking chance in hell and the boys would have to leave. We compromised when the strange couple swapped seats with us. The young woman, outwardly appearing white middle class attempted to sympathise “Well, I’m Jewish so I know how it feels” but she was one of the ones laughing when it was all kicking off. She overheard me talking to my friend about the unacceptable thing that had just happened and defended herself by saying it was nervous laughter. Dunno about you but I have never laughed when ANYONE has been racially abused. Could she have white privilege?
I’m not going to report this to Tell Mama UK. Y’see I’m not Muslim. I’m just brown. I wonder how many other non-Muslim people have had to endure an attack like that. I’ve received the odd tweet and word about friends and friends of friends having to defend themselves but how many other PoC are facing this kind of persecution? How many do not report? How many suffer in silence? I have respect for the organisation for making some of us aware of what is happening but I probably can’t turn the other cheek, ever. I am hoping that standing up to these pricks will make them think twice about harassing another woman ever again. A man ‘splained to me once how we were making it worse for ourselves by fighting back. No. If we don’t, we maintain the status quo. Granted, some people find it more difficult than others and there are reasons why some people can’t but I for one will shout and scream when my personal space is invaded. My body and time is mine. Random strange men do not have an automatic right to me.
What is it about men that allows them to behave towards women of colour in this way? My friend was also abused, no doubt, but she acknowledged the additional traumatic stress of racism. The two pronged attack that WoC contend with on a daily basis. They hurt us because we are women but also because we are not white. They see us as being relatively vulnerable compared to white women. They see us as easy pickings.
When the fascists attacked the pregnant Muslim woman in Paris, she appealed to them for the sake of her unborn child. They responded by kicking her repeatedly in the stomach. How could the foetus survive? I wonder if there is a huge Catholic campaign against fascists kicking unborn babies out of Muslim bellies. If there is, I’ll be happy to hear it exists. Preserve those lives that are wanted.
However, it is worrying that the pregnant woman in Paris has become the focus of all the media regarding attacks on Muslims. Google ‘Muslim woman attacked’ and every story is about the forced miscarriage. Google ‘Muslim attacked’ and bar one or two incidents, the focus is still on the same story. When our sister in India lost her life to a brutal gang rape, the media reported very little on other rapes and most people believed it was India’s problem. Rapists did not stop raping, the media stopped reporting. It sensationalised a single case. That is what is happening now; Muslims and other non-whites like me are being attacked but as long as the problem lies with one pregnant woman in France, we can ignore it. Except how many people know she wasn’t the only Muslim woman to have suffered in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil? I wonder what happened to the other three.
What about the 212 victims in the UK? We know some of them were mosques but I’d be interested to see the male/female ratio. There have been seventeen incidents of assault including 11 cases where racists attempted to remove Islamic clothing. I wonder if they are all women too.
This assault on women of colour, this war they have constructed, it is iniquitous. People in power, stop expecting those oppressed to find better ways of defending themselves and banish those who seek to oppress them.
Or else admit you “literally couldn’t give a shit about it”.