Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Oh no! Someone tell me I'm not in a racist moment!

It was about two years when I experienced it for the first time. I was relatively naive then and it happened in the downtown of Amsterdam in the middle of the night. Luckily though, I had few friends with their poker faces on showing me the best way to adopt.

This time, a couple of seconds into it when the skinny middle aged lady stood between me and the aisle in the bus and started confronting me with racial slur literally into my face, I had only one thing in my mind: Not to give a single piece of emotion, not even a micro expression.

While it went on for good 5-10 minutes, I didn't know what to do except maintaining the status-quo. Last time this happened, we were in a isolated alley with no one to hear or help us. But now, I'm in the bus with 50 other people in it! Without giving in to the banter, shouldn't I do something about it? Shouldn't any of the other 50 do something about it?

Fortunately, just when I was thinking all of this, two girls in the bus took up to themselves to give some piece of mind to the lady. Soon the voices reached the driver and a formal complaint was made, the police were called when the lady refused to leave the bus. Realizing the consequences, within few minutes she reversed her decision, said some of the most meanest, sickest things to the girls and ran away after spitting on them.
The girls took it in a lighter way and within few minutes normalcy was restored.

I was not bothered by the lady with the racist slurs (going back to my previous post, I've to terms with it).
I was not bothered that it took so long for anyone to react (the hesitation is understandable).
The thing that did bother me was there were 48 other people (including me) in the bus who chose to remain silent. I do not know what I would've done, if it had gone longer, I was certainly thinking about it.
But it did bother me that majority of people chose to ignore a fellow passenger being confronted racially. (Sitting silent is not being neutral! sometimes there is no stand like that!)

A friend of mine once used to say, jails are not for bad people who will do bad things anyway. They are to stop good people from doing bad things. Now, I don't want to assume people as "bad" by default! (Even though you are put to test when you are the lone brown guy in the full bus and the seat beside you will be the last one to get occupied. No, I don't want to assume things and raise the race card! It will be crazy living like that).

But, what keeps good people away from doing good things? (like taking a stand in this matter)

There is always this understandable hesitation in one's mind. You know something is wrong and you hope someone else takes an action before you may have to do it yourself. Thankfully there are some "Good Samaritan Laws" in many parts of the world, helping people to do the right thing than just being a bystander. (Though the applicability of law is somewhat limited).

Regardless of existence of laws or type of situation, mostly as we know and perhaps seen in many cases, some of us are early to put that thought into action than the others. It is this transition which makes all the difference in the situation. (Be it someone facing a racist confrontation or someone in need of any kind of help). It isn't about being a hero, it's just about doing the right thing. For some of us it is about killing the "what if?" fear, for some overcoming the "why me?" and for some just realizing being a helpful human is more important than being a cynic.

I don't consider myself to be an expert in moral measures, but I have penned down my thoughts here, hoping some of them strike a chord. Though I started with the story of my racist moment, I hope the reader will not get tied down to the particular event and rather ends up asking "Should I let myself to be a bystander?" in any day-to-day situation which can do better with an involvement.

I hope we all can overcome whatever is hindering us and put our thoughts into action in all walks of life.


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