Racism among the carrots and pears.

I was standing quietly in the veg shop queue waiting for the small talk to be done with when the old man who had just finished putting away his carrots and pears in his bag suddenly turned back in the doorway.
“I were accosted by four pakistanis this morning.”
There was a silence. The lady who runs the veg shop, who is also a local councillor, didn’t quite know what to say. She has her own, very successful, repertoire of pleasant things which she uses to make her customers feel welcome and any response she might make to this was sure to be well outside her comfort zone. On the other hand she had to say something. So she did.
“What happened then?”
The man pulled himself up to his full height. He had wanted to be asked. He probably read all sorts of things in the Daily Mail every day and now it was his turn for the limelight.
“They wound their car window down and shouted what do you think you’re looking at? I said not at you.”
His face settled into a mask of self righteous venom, remembering his ordeal.
“I know what I’d do wi’ ’em all.”
I knew what was coming next. It’s what always comes next.
“I’d send ’em all back home.”
The veg shop lady made some careful noises which might, or might not, have signalled agreement. She likes everybody and everybody likes her. Being well liked in a small town matters. He was a customer after all and there were others listening. The man strutted off, job done, leaving her holding a plastic bag in her hand helplessly that I didn’t need. He had managed to turn the fact that he had seen four Asian men in a car and glowered at them so nastily that they had felt threatened and responded to his aggression into a completely different scenario where they had “accosted” him. He had used the word accosted quite deliberately as bait, in order to get a reaction, so that he could spread some more of his bile. The fact that it is very difficult for someone to accost you when they are driving past slowly in a car (even if they had tried- which they didn’t) was totally irrelevant.
The queue moved forward and for a little while there was an embarrassed silence. That’s how this kind of nonsense grows, especially in a place where seeing a sari floating out in the wind on the beach is an event.

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