Sunday, March 15, 2015

Am I a racist?

Right now I am in Istanbul Turkey on a consulting gig. I travelled here with a few of my Indian brothers and we are staying in a pretty posh neighborhood in Bostanci. So yesterday after working all morning and some of the afternoon, my Indian brothers and I decided to go out for lunch nearby. We did a search on Google and we decided on a Mexican restaurant called Ranchero. So we layer up and walk over. As soon as we stepped inside a waiter came rushing over to us shaking his head vigorously and showing us back to the door. The only English word he said was closed. But that cannot be true because even as we were being ejected other people were coming in and not all the tables were full either; and none of them was marked as reserved.

So I made 2 conclusions. One is that the waiter racially profiled us and determined that we would be ordering vegetarian options and those were not available. Or 2 that he just did not like the look of us. In both cases there is a tinge of racism.

What scares me is that I was not in the least bit offended. I was more irritated that we had to go back out into the cold and find another restaurant and thus lose time that we could have spent working. There is something definitely wrong with me because this is not the 1st time I have reacted like this to racism. I was on a bus in London when an old drunk man started making some racists remarks in my direction. I only realised I should be offended when the nice old lady seated next to me complained on my behalf. Then the driver threw the geezer off the bus. I remember being irritated by the fact that the bus driver stopped for a long time to throw the guy off and I would probably miss my train.

Many times I read the stories of alleged racism and I wonder what the fuss is about. I wonder why Luis Suarez was banned, I wonder why Yaya Toure called in the police. I can understand why my friend Henry Lukenge called in the police. This behavior made him miss his bus and that is just not right.

So what is wrong with me? And what impact will my attitude have on me and others? Does it mean I am racist too? I do know that I am prejudiced and I do perpetuate most stereotypes. But I also know that I posses empathy. As such, I always try to put myself in the other person's shoes.

That guy at Ranchero may be knew that he basically has racist regular clients, who may make our experience in his restaurant uncomfortable. So I should understand that calling the police on the guy will probably mean him losing his job and yet he threw us out for our own good. I actually have a racist friend (lol - that just sounds like "... some of my best friends are racists ...") that I always try not to subject to the company of white people as it would be unpleasant for all of us.

That chap on the bus was struggling to find work and had become an alcoholic and may be his job had been taken by a black educated man like me. Its probably easier to tell him to shape up, but as a humanist, I think its not right for me to be upset with him. I should instead feel sorry for him, rather than add to his problems by getting him thrown off the bus or calling the police. And lets us not forget the risk of missing my train.

But still, I wonder if there is something wrong with me...

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