She heard you from a way off, ranting in the park, repeating the tired tropes about “immigrants coming over here and claiming benefits.” You and your companion in his twenties, who nodded and shrugged, and so facilitated the stream of racist, anti-immigrant filth that spewed from your mouth.
My beautiful, olive-skinned 16 year old daughter was walking her beloved flatcoated retriever in the sunshine, something she only ever gets to do in the school holidays, her waist length dark auburn hair blowing gently in the wind. Oscar the dog fished a stick out of the river and carried on walking with his darling Puppy. And as you approached my daughter with your English Bulldog and she turned her head to locate the source of the invective, you raised your voice to a deliberate stage whisper: “You Pakis get out of the country too. Blowing up Europe.”
Eliza has never had to face racial abuse before, thank goodness. She has been largely insulated from it, with her nice, liberal, middle class upbringing and education. She was momentarily shocked that someone would use this sort of language against her but you did not make her crumble. You thought you could use your vileness to bully and cow a seemingly vulnerable teenager but you reckoned without her inner strength and confidence. That’s the difference between the two of you, you see. You are a crusty old has-been and she represents the future that you have difficulty comprehending, and I imagine that this is why you saw fit to abuse her.
I thought I’d let you know, out of courtesy, what we did next. We didn’t slink back into our cocoon and hide, like I would have done in the past, expected to take the daily racial abuse on the chin; expected to turn the other cheek and behave twice as well in the face of disgustingness. No. We reported the incident to the Metropolitan Police on the 101 number. Yes, we had to wait a little while to be connected but, once put through, the call handler treated our complaint with the utmost seriousness. They took a statement from Eliza over the phone and then sent two officers around to our house within the hour to take a more detailed statement and description of you.
Why did we report it? Well people still believe that this sort of thing just doesn’t happen in nice, leafy Beckenham. No matter how much I have related my past racist encounters they have always chosen not to believe me. I believe this is what is called white privilege: you choose to discount the experience of someone of colour just because it has never happened to you. As an example of this, I noticed yesterday on Twitter among all the lovely messages of horror and shock and support for my child and her experiences, one or two, who call themselves Christians, preferred to remain silent yet chose to retweet my subsequent tweet about the theft of a valuable violin from the musician mother of two of my children’s schoolmates.
We reported the incident so that it will be recorded in the racial; abuse crime statistics. Apparently, post-Brexit, these are on the increase as people feel empowered to say the vile things that they have kept locked away in their minds all these years, their dirty little secret. Now that people are seeing fit to vilify Poles and Romanians and other EU settlers, (who come here, work and contribute their taxes to the UK economy and pay for your benefits and pension, you ingrate) the media are suddenly taking notice. But most people of colour will tell you that the nastiness has always been there, barely hidden below the skin, this contempt for the Other.
The police officers interviewing Eliza were keen that we reported the crime: if we do not, then there will not be an acknowledged problem with racial abuse and violence in this area. If there is no acknowledged problem, there will be no funding allocated to tackling the issue. So the next time this happens, the police will be short of officers to come out and investigate. And well-meaning white liberals will be able to continue thinking that no such thing could happen here, of all places. The officers told us that there has been a rise in these incidents, EVEN HERE, since the Referendum.
We reported the incident because, as articulate, well-educated, confident people, we have a duty and a responsibility to help those who aren’t as insulated as us from this vileness. We are acting on behalf of the hijabi mothers of young children who have their veils ripped away in the street; who are asked continually to apologise for someone else’s unspeakable terrorist acts; who are just trying to get on with making a better life for themselves. We are checking our privilege.
What will happen now? Well, if Eliza ever comes across you on a dog walk again, she has been instructed by the police to call 999. They will prioritise officers to come and tell you in no uncertain terms that it is unacceptable to spout racist filth and hatred.
I’m pretty sure I know who you are too. You are memorable because of your pitiable choice of dog breed and the way you scowl at me when we cross paths on our walk. In your ignorance, you are probably completely unaware of this, but the English Bulldog has been inbred to disgusting depths of ill-health through idiotic adherence to a completely grotesque breed standard. Pregnant English Bulldogs must give birth by C-section because of the abnormally large size of their puppies’ heads; as brachycephalic dogs, they have difficulty breathing and can overheat at the gentlest exercise. We had one in our dog class once: its owner had to follow it around with a baby muslin over her shoulder to mop up the pools of of yellow and white phlegm that it snorted out continually and left all over the floor. Just like the filth that was expelled from your mouth yesterday, there is no place for such skank in the modern world.