Gotta post this now, before I lose the nerve.
This morning I turned up at a pub/restaurant at just gone 8am for a big veggie breakfast. A young woman and man were waiting outside. They worked there, and the manager had not yet turned up. By the time they’d be ready to open, it would be 9am. I retraced my steps, got on my bike and cycled on to a supermarket. As I passed the place, I saw an older black man standing outside the window, looking as cold as I felt. I don’t remember what I thought.
As well as buying breakfast things for myself, I bought two jam donuts for the pair of stranded workers, and gave them to the woman as I cycled back past.
This evening, in a bizarre coincidence, I bumped into her in the city centre. She said something that jarred – that when she’d turned up that morning, she’d said “hi guys” to her colleagues. Plural. I didn’t ask her, but I had a sinking feeling…
So, back to the supermarket to buy another donut. Then into the now very busy establishment. Spoke to the manager, the one who’d been late. She quickly realised I was the “donut man.”
“Do you have an older black guy who works here?”
“Yes.” (inward groan from me)
“Is he still on shift?”
At which point I explained what I’d done. The donut would be stale by the time he got it (and that’s hardly the fricking point, is it?). She will pass on my apologies. And next I am in there, I will ask for him, to apologise in person.
I loathe the openly racist political parties. I hold politically correct views. I [insert protestations of moral superiority here, evidence of aid work etc etc]. But there’s this thing called the Implicit Association Test. (I’ve blogged about it here). Well, this morning, around ten past eight, my implicit associations were tested.
We don’t need any fancy MRI of my amygdala or pre-frontal cortex or whatever to figure this out. There’s a simple test, a simple question. Would I have made the same snap assumption – that the guy was not a staff member – if he’d been the same age, in the same clothes but white? Almost certainly not.
Sir, I only know your name, your place of employment, and that this morning I failed to treat you in the same way I treated your co-workers.
It was cold, you were waiting to work, and it must have felt like a kick in the teeth. I’m sorry.
Black Like Me (read it when I was about 19. Seems like I need to again.)
other suggestions welcome…
Ah, someone has suggested this –
The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon… a great short book