This blog post is to record the conversation I just had with my flatmate. She’s from Japan. We were talking about taking the bus to go to the mall and she says she doesn’t ever go far away from our house because she is scared to use the bus. She says if something is not within trekking distance she will decline to go there. She even walks to the train station which is literally 40 minutes away from our house. Considering she just told me earlier that she bought a 219 pound perfume it clearly was not about the money. So what could it be?
She has a phobia for entering buses in the UK because of her first ever experience riding the bus as an Asian. She had got on the bus and taken a seat. There were other adults in the bus. Two stops later a group of mature school kids got on the same bus, they were roughly 13 to 15 year olds. They took two seats behind her but the seat between her and them was empty. Next thing she knew they started laughing loud and saying ‘Ni Hao’ over and over while throwing popcorn at her head. She turned round and asked them to stop but they got even louder and when she faced front again the popcorn throwing resumed. The other adults said and did absolutely nothing.
So she takes out her phone and turns on the selfie camera to capture them and that simply aggravates them even more. The started mock coughing (to indicate she was a spreader of COVID because she is Asian) and on their way out of the bus at their stop two of them used their shoes to kick her leg. One of them pauses and takes a photo of her while she turned her face away from the girl’s camera. She was trembling and shaken to tears. She had just arrived the UK for school the week before and that was her very first time using the bus. She could never understand why anyone would hate her so much that they would publicly attack her and not a single adult there could assist her to stop them.
As she told my other flatmate and I this story, my mouth was agape in disbelief. The closest I have ever come to feeling like I don’t belong here is how white people ignore me. They either start to talk over me before I have completed my sentence, or like I experienced at the Emergency ward of a hospital, dismissed me without even hearing what I wanted to ask with the usual stone-faced “take a seat over there please and someone will attend to you” (nobody will) but then turn round to listen to every white person that comes right after you extensively and are suddenly super helpful to them. Or in class where you can answer a question and the lecturer just carries on to re-ask the same question again almost like nobody just spoke but then livens up and dissects the next answer given by a white student, even when they said the exact same thing you just said. Its usually covert things like that but never direct and definitely not physical assault.
It is sad that anyone, much less this harmless Japanese lady (she’s not even from China as presumed by most racist white folk) had to suffer this public humiliation with the tacit support of adults who should have known better. And sadly this is not an isolated incident and definitely not the worst. However, its always someone else on TV that experiences these things not someone I know sitting in front of me half in tears as she recalls the incident. What baffles me the most is that the UK is not shy to discuss its racism problem. In fact, I find that the British are very happy to confront almost anything and have a spirited self assessment on how they can improve. And so to think that for all that talk, this is the society they actually run where young teenagers are already moulded from home to think that openly racist behavior is acceptable and will go without consequence, is confusing.
I just never want to forget this night so I had to write it down so I have a time stamp of when I heard this horrendous story, and I am able to refer back to it for credibility when I have the chance to challenge the status quo, which God-willing I will have in this country one day.