I had been at a local pub, a cheap and cheerful establishment created for the pleasures of the workers. The town is a peninsular with its Royal Navy roots so deep that the birds sing a Napoleonic lament from the tree tops.
My group had had their fill of gossip and nostalgia and we had said or goodbyes.
I was in the process of unlocking my bike when a gentleman approached. He was Sikh, wearing a traditional black turban and carrying a briefcase. Clearly, he was not from these parts. I would have noticed him before.
He was not particularly inspiring with his barrage of compliments but I confess to enjoying the fact that a man of colour was talking to me, brazenly, in this town of bigots. There are very few people of colour here and the town is notorious for its political stance on Brexit, immigration and other policies. I confront racism almost daily, not as a victim as such because, although I am also a woman of colour, my Scottish mother bleached my skin with her ice-cold gene pool and I have been bleaching my hair since my punk days in the London gutters. I am a silent woman of colour, something of a spy. I confront racism daily as the passive and not so passive bigotry of the town seeps into conversations and activities. Some days, it is less passive.
So, in the spirit of positive discrimination, and because I had had a few and cared less, I said yes to the drink. I was interested in his story and I would be more than happy to piss off the locals, yet again.
As we walked in passed the security guard, who had been standing next to me all night at our group table, the guard stopped to ask the Sikh if he was OK?
It is difficult to explain the inherent racism in the question but let me try.
No one else was being asked and it was a meaningless question because the Sikh, with his briefcase escorting the blond into the pub really was, OK. The only person who was not actually OK, was the doorman.
He was not happy that a Sikh was entering his domain and like a Rottweiler looking down at nonchalant Chihuahua, it showed on his face.
We went to the bar.
The silence was deafening, it defined the moment. The stares and condescending looks were oppressive. The atmosphere was palpable. It genuinely shocked me.
Needless to say, we were not served in timely fashion or in queue order.
How very un-British.
My escort remarked that he was quite used to this behaviour and that, being brought up in Portsmouth, had just accepted it.
I was angry and incensed but the Sikh begged I sit down and he would wait to be served.
I sat quietly, in womanly fashion, and waited an age until finally the man of colour was served in the town’s most racist establishment.
The table adjacent filled with around ten rowdy youths and I regretted being there immediately.
But an activist, in good faith, cannot change what has been started by abandoning the situation. I was here for the new England.
My new Sikh friend who had been finally served at the empty bar, came to sit between myself and the table of raging testosterone.
There was that hush again. To be fair, it was not as loud as the one at the bar where the fat of privilege had been around for longer. There was an air of disregard, as opposed to disrespect and after the initial shock of a turban and brown flesh, the group acclimatised themselves and carried on, with what can only be described as, being youthful.
And so we talked. The Sikh was separated and had three children. He had been on a ‘works do’ and was very drunk, hence his nerve to initially approach me. He was well educated, if a little slurred.
It wasn’t long before he asked my age and I proudly informed him that I was fifty-seven. (After a recent birthday I am still proud that I have made it.)
At this point things took a negative turn. Although the Sikh wasn’t exactly a youth himself, being in his forties, he seemed taken aback by this revelation.
He looked down at the ground shaking his head from side to side and said, three times as I recall,
‘This is what my life has come to, sitting in a bar with a fifty-seven-year old’.
I was drinking with a bigot, yet again.
© 2019 Pasha du Valentine/Goddamn Media