On, my introduction to racism
I was asked recently what my earliest memory of racism was.
I had to sift through years upon years of incidents, and none them are small. All of these incidents have had a profound effect on me. Which is why when I see phrases like ‘low level racism’ I do a double take, who says that? I think to myself.
There’s a saying, ‘don’t sweat the small stuff.’ Whoever coined that saying was white. And I say this with utmost certainty. Because when it comes to racism, there is no small stuff.
My earliest memory is of me, sitting on my mothers lap, on a bus. The bus is full of other people, of all walks of life, from all over the world it seems to me at the time. A small girl across the aisle catches my eye, with beautiful blonde pig tails sticking out of her head, (oh how I envied blonde pig tails when I was small).
This lil girl is around 4, same as me, and blonde and gorgeous to my then non discerning eye. I catch her eye across the aisle and grin, she catches my grin, smiles back and waves.
The bus stops and more people get on, including an African lady wearing an exquisite turban. This lady sits down in the seat in front of Ms Pigtails and stretches her arm alongside the back of the seat. Ms Pigtails then says to her mother, in a rather dismissive tone ‘Eww, she doesn’t wash her elbows’!
I looked at the lady in questions elbows, and realised, her elbows looked exactly like my Nannas elbows, my Nanna was cleaner than anybody! She made me scrub every last inch of my own self when I stayed over! I waited for Ms Pigtails mother to correct her, but much to my astonishment, Ms Pigtails mother said, ‘Yes, they are filthy, stay away from them’! Ms Pigtails mother then stood up and moved to the back of the bus, to a seat far from the elbow that had apparently discomfited her so much.
That was my intro to racism. I wonder if Ms Pigtails realises that it may have been her introduction as well.