So we have all seen the tram experience video and we are all (I hope) equally disturbed by the shocking ignorance and racism. However, a lot of people have expressed their disbelief at the woman’s audacity to so comfortably release her tirade on all the unfortunate passengers on said tram. But sadly I am not. Before I go on, I should probably explain my background.
I Kagweni Micheni, also known as Kagz to most, was born in Kenya. When I was 10, my family moved to Wales and a few years later, armed with a British “citizenship”, lived in England. I’m not particularly surprised at the woman’s comments because I have experienced them all. Whether it was “Oh where do you come from?” or even “Why did you move to this country?” both question are very familiar to me. It does not matter that I speak perfect English, due to an intense hatred of incorrect grammar, or that I have lived more than half my life here;the fact that I am black, or rather a slightly milk chocolate brown, means that I don’t look British. To some, that may mean that I don’t belong here and to others it makes me different to others somehow, but it does not change the fact that I am here.
The reason I am not surprised by the video is because it’s normal today. In today’s world where the internet has given people a chance to voice their opinion, and let everyone know what they are thinking: racism, sexism, ageism or even religious intolerance is an everyday occurrence.
Take YouTube. Recently, while doing everything and anything I could to deter starting a 3000 word essay on a cloning experiment, I found myself browsing through random videos on YouTube. After numerous videos of animals doing cute things and laughing babies, I somehow found myself watching an old news story about an 11 year old who had been raped by 25 men in America. I’m not entirely sure how I ended up on the video, but one never is when YouTube is involved. You can start on a movie trailer and somehow end up watching a lady singing like a horse on The Philippines’ got talent (I’m not joking, this genuinely exists). On this particular day I found myself watching this news clip.
The story itself is tragic and portrays the worst of human beings, yet although I was appalled by the story, it is the comments on the video which particularly angered me. As it turns out, all of the rapists happened to be African American. In my opinion, the race of a criminal should not be what they are judged on, but rather their crime. However for a majority of the comments the crime was blamed on their race. For example, here is one of the comments left on the video;
“And this is why n*****s need to be killed or shiped back off to butt f**k Africa.
If they want to go n rape innocent people then they can go to Africa n do that sh*t, Its extremely commen in Africa, so why not?
N*****s need to be wiped off the face of America.”
Despite the blatant racism in this comment, one of many, none of the comments were deleted, reported or even investigated. It seems that they are protected by free speech. And even though I am disgusted by them, I have accepted that they are in fact allowed to make them.
The reason I am not surprised by the woman’s speech on the tram is that intolerance has always existed. What makes her different from the nameless community on the internet who is allowed to voice their opinion? Her crime was not that she was racist, but rather that she was racist in public. It does not condone her actions or try to defend anything that she said, but rather unfortunately, she had a right to say what she believes, despite the fact that it was hateful.
We can all be upset, angry or ashamed by the video, but it exists and people like her exist. At the same time we cannot ignore this fact. Whether white, black or any race; we have to try and get rid of such prejudice. Yes, society has gone a long way towards equality, but we have stopped talking openly about the problems that exist. We are stuck behind a politically correct wall that stops us from seeing what is there, so that when something does come into public view, we are shocked. By talking about the problem, a solution may arise. Intolerance is out there, but until we can face it head on, it will continue. Until we can eliminate ignorance in our communities, we cannot be surprised that it is there.