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How we respond to racist hatred matters more than ever | Chitra Ramaswamy | Life and style | The Guardian

The racial abuse of a black woman by a white man on a Ryanair flight comes amid a surge in hate crime. In the face of freshly emboldened racism, white people, and particularly men, must intervene

For those who remain convinced that racism doesn’t exist, or prefer to luxuriate in the simple white pleasure of colour-blindness (towards the experiences of actual people of colour rather than our skin tone), Wide Awoke refers you to video footage of a white man on a Ryanair flight yelling racist abuse at a black woman. Then keeping his seat while she was asked if she wanted to move. Ryanair reportedly said that the cabin crew were not aware of the racist slurs. This appalling chain of events, which will not be shocking to anyone who has been on the receiving end of racist abuse, tells us everything we need to know about how racism is routinely handled in our country.

The film shows the man threatening to “push” the woman to another seat. The woman, a 77-year-old member of the Windrush generation who is returning from a holiday with her daughter to mark the death of her husband, has arthritis. Apparently she takes too long to move. The man calls her an “ugly black bastard” and shouts “don’t talk to me in a foreign language” when she replies in English. Eventually, a flight attendant intervenes. A passenger confronts the man.

The outcome? The woman is moved. The man remains locked in his white privilege, his racist hatred, and his seatbelt. Ryanair, which once ordered five black musicians to leave a flight at gunpoint after a passenger complained they looked like terrorists, has referred the matter to Essex police. At the time of writing, the airline had not contacted the woman to apologise.

When I watch this footage, I begin to sweat. My heart hammers. I freeze while violent emotional weather batters my inner landscape. I find it impossible to speak. Though I am not someone who struggles to stick up for myself, every time I have been hit by the sucker punch of racism, whether from a well-meant comment at a dinner party or abuse hurled from a passing car, I have been powerless to defend myself. I am literally gagged by shame. And whenever I have experienced abuse in public, no one has intervened. Not one person. Racism tends to be met with silence, embarrassment, or, worse, denial.

We are living in the midst of a surge in hate crime and an establishment that seems hell-bent on legitimising far-right, racist views, whether through a newspaper column by a former foreign secretary inciting Islamophobia or the invitation of Steve Bannon to a conference co-hosted by our public service broadcaster. How we respond matters more than ever. We can all do more to combat freshly emboldened racism but some can do more than others because some bystanders, such as white people and men, possess more power and thus more responsibility. So when people of colour experience racism, we need white allies to stand up and fight. Not just for us but because racism, we appear to have forgotten, must be abhorrent to us all.

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Sorgente: How we respond to racist hatred matters more than ever | Chitra Ramaswamy | Life and style | The Guardian

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