Nothing is particularly shocking about a racial altercation taking place on the Tube; however, this week’s surfacing of an especially ugly skirmish between two commuters on YouTube poses a series of provocative questions with regards to how this country talks about race.
The three-minute video, which appeared on Wednesday under the title ‘Racist Woman On London Train Gets What She Deserves!’, opens mid-debate after a 19-year-old black man has allegedly stepped on a white woman’s shoe. How does the woman respond? By calling the man a “smelly Nigerian”.
Racially-insensitive insults begin to fly from both parties – ranging from the woman being called a “white princess” and “escort” to her firing back that the black man is “fucking shit on [her] shoe”. Yet the squabble is nothing but a particularly messy night on the Tube until the black man finally loses his cool and apparently decides that it’s time to literally beat some sense into the bigoted woman.
In doing so the man’s actions did little more than to solidify the disgustingly ignorant convictions of London’s racist individuals. Indeed, it can’t be ignored that young black men are already blamed for a substantial amount of all crime committed by men in London – this sort of incessant, nationwide racial profiling will never cease to exist so long as young men succumb to the hateful taunts of others.
Under absolutely no circumstances is racism acceptable – least of all, on public transport between strangers. Yet violence based upon such irrational hatred is even worse. Had the event been responsibly reported to transit officials, the police might have even bothered to track her down; however, because the altercation was permitted to become violent, the racial spat has served only to embarrass everyone involved. In effect, this video didn’t illustrate a “racist woman” getting “what she deserves”, but rather yet another disappointing chapter in a society’s inability to celebrate its ethnic diversity.
Unfortunately, YouTube videos attempting to publicise the racist rants of society’s more ignorant individuals is no new occurrence – in fact, Wednesday’s violent episode is only the latest in a growing tradition of home-made exposes of public transport at its absolute worst. On the one hand, it’s quite understandable that spectators should wish to share their first-hand experiences with racism, in the hopes that it might initiate a higher level of awareness and subsequent action. Yet on the other hand, it’s clear that a vast majority of these videos aren’t concerned with civil discourse – but instead choose to wrongly glorify violence in the name of racial equality. Nothing has ever been so self-defeating.
Race will always be an issue in Britain – at least 10% of the population isn’t white, and this figure is expected to rise substantially in coming years. Accordingly, it’s time for the UK to start talking about race proactively – not just MPs, but everyone.
This discussion doesn’t need to start in Westminster, but it needs to start in Britain’s trains and buses. Indeed, perhaps the most upsetting aspect of Wednesday’s highly-publicised spat is that it took so long for the dozens of spectators watching to get involved – which doesn’t necessarily mean throwing oneself into the line of fire, but helping to defuse a tension from which violence is a regrettably predictable outcome. With any luck, perhaps the commuters who appear on YouTube’s next video depiction of racism on public transport will have the courage to stand up and interject – before someone is able to throw another punch.