TW: Racism/xenophobia and homophobia
I even got a little teary watching the new London is Open video, about all different kinds of people being able to make their home here and be embraced by the city.
But last weekend this was called into question when I was forced to consider whether once again I have been living in a bubble.
It all happened over two tube journeys, two tube journeys in a row to be exact, to and from a meal out.
(District line, I don’t blame you for this.)
Dickhead number 1
On tube journey number 1, some buskers got on- the kind where they play something like ‘When the saints go marching in’ with a speaker and a horn. I heard a man angrily tell his partner to move down the aisle away from the group.
At this point, I assumed he had a typical Londoner’s approach to jollity on tubes and was just being gruff.
Until he followed up his instruction to move with ‘Before I start punching these foreign arseholes’.
I shared an astonished look with the guy sat opposite me.
My step 1 move in these situations kicked in: persistent evil glaring. Coupled with a total determination to find the buskers utterly delightful.
The train arrived at the next station and the man and his partner got off, but not before he pulled a move that I can quite confidently say I have never seen performed seriously or by anyone over the age of 15.
He pulled the ‘scratching my face but actually giving you the finger’ move.
Nice one, mate. You really showed them.
At the point at which the birdy came out I said ‘That is completely inappropriate’ or something entirely pointless like that. He either didn’t hear me or chose not to hear me.
He was carrying shopping bags from what was presumably a day out and about. A day in which statistically it was very likely that one of ‘these foreign arseholes’ served him his lunch. Or helped in a fitting room. Or drove him home. Or was protecting the streets that he walked along.
Dickhead number 2
On my return journey, I became aware that the man next to me was filming and laughing in my direction.
When I looked over, thinking he was filming me for some reason, it was clear that he was actually looking far past me to the other end of the carriage.
Following his gaze I realised he was filming and laughing at two men who were kissing and holding hands, blissfully unaware of the gigantic fucking dickhead several metres away.
Turns out he was facetiming his friend and even bonded with the stranger sitting opposite him, who, joy of joys, was also a massive bigot.
I glared in his face until he said something to me, but all I could manage was ‘you are so hateful’. To which his response was to laugh more, and tell his facetime friend about me. I ran off at the next station and started sobbing uncontrollably.
At this juncture I want to point out that I’m not trying to make this a story about me. I was not on the receiving end of either of these dickhead’s reprehensible acts. My response in both situations was so much not enough.
But I was just so….disappointed. Devastated, really.
It’s not that I didn’t know that hate crimes happen in this city. But I didn’t realise that this hate had become so prevalent that I could be party to this behaviour twice in the space of two journeys. And that it would go unchallenged. Not even unchallenged.
Can London really be open if we’re all too worried to speak up?
Of course it can be dangerous to do so in these situations, and no-one should ever put themselves into a situation that makes them feel vulnerable if they don’t feel able to.
But couldn’t silence be interpreted as complicity? Agreement?
So what can we do?
Text 61016 to report crime or incidents on public transport.
Call it out when we feel able to.
Scream it into the void on the internet.
And keep hoping.