Last night, I went out to the pub with Alex and some of his friends. Newport is a quaint village by day, but one endless pub crawl at night, overrun by Harper Adams students doing what college students do best: drink, drink, drink! We started at one pub and moved onto a second one later on, for reasons unknown to me [side note, the urge to go to a bunch of different places in one night, forever chasing the “better” party, is common, and related to the Fear of Missing Out]. I stood outside for a few moments after the others had gone in, watching an old man walk down the road with his amused eye on the drunken college crowd that had spilled onto the sidewalk, and the orange streetlights shining on the church. So when I actually entered the pub, I was alone.
There were a couple of drunk boys standing in the entrance, about 20 years old, clearly wasted. One of them said “hello!” and held up his hand in what I thought was an invitation to high-five him. Being rather tipsy myself, and always willing to high-five strangers, I started to high-five. But before my hand could connect with his, he snatched it away, making a face of disgust. I couldn’t tell, at first, if he was kidding. I raised my eyebrows and withdrew my hand, and as I did so, he and his friend started spewing a mishmash of Asian gibberish at me, mocking expressions on their faces as they let out whatever mangled syllables of Chinese/Japanese/Korean they knew. Shocked, I walked past them and into the pub as quickly as I could.
I hate racism because it brings out the worst in me. It’s difficult, after being treated in such a way, not to reciprocate: I immediately feel hostile towards everyone around me. I instinctively start setting up an angry, defensive counter-prejudice that goes something like this: Bunch of fucking rich closed-minded white-ass farmers stuck in their provincial backwater little shitheads… you see nothing but my race? I see nothing but your disgusting ignorance… And so on. The worst of me. I mean, it’s ridiculous. I start to look at everyone around me as a potential enemy. [Note: just for the record, since I feel like this is the kind of thing that floats on the internet and then comes back to bite you in the ass when you’re running for president or whatever – I mean, this is NOT WHAT I REALLY THINK, just ridiculous heat-of-the-moment totally unreasonable anger.]
But of course, by and large, the people I’ve met here have been welcoming and kind. They’ve made no judgments on my race, dreadlocks, enormous glasses, hippie attitudes, or anything else. I’ve liked them, and they’ve liked me. You can find two bigots in any crowd; it doesn’t mean everyone around you is a bigot. So I did my best to laugh it off and carry on. To look around at the pub (which was completely white, aside from me), and know that they were good people, not jerks. To feel lucky – and I do feel lucky, all the time – that I’ve never had to deal with any racism more pernicious than this, and that I’ve met lovely, interesting people here.
But hey, it’s never fun.
More thoughts on race in the future.