Let me preface this by emphasising that this post is not an attempt to complain about racism; rather, it aims to reflect on the boundary between morals and tolerance by attributing a hint of perceived racist behaviour.
Since I have been living in a white man's country, I almost always classify certain actions as non-racist and even make excuses for how they shouldn't always be perceived from a racial standpoint, but at the same time, I also often encounter actions that simply don't make any sense to me, except as clear instances of racism. Despite their potential validity, there are a few things that cannot be overlooked.
Here's one encounter I had yesterday that I would share with you.
In Glasgow, it's not uncommon to often find yourself inside noisy public transports. I recall a particular instance when I was on a bus, some white teenager had his boombox speaker blasting loud music and no one said a word to complain about the noise.
On this given day, I sat on the upper deck of an empty bus, a lady who was seated at the forefront, several seats away from me suddenly complains about the sound coming from my phone. The sound in question was from a comedy skit on Instagram, nothing too intrusive, I was even shocked at how she was able to hear it from that distance as you can see from the photo. And then I wondered, even if the noise was disturbing her that much, couldn't she have simply moved to the lower deck? The lower deck was completely empty, so was it necessary for her to complain about the sound? Would she have complained if I were white and watching white people comedy?
I would bet that she was genuinely triggered by the sound because she couldn't understand a word in the comedy skit. And for some of my readers that may be fond of Nigerian comedy skits, there's usually bridges of laughter and ridicule, so maybe this lady must have been somewhat annoyed by these combining elements.
At this point, I began to reflect on the lack of tolerance here, or maybe subtlety of racism? The lady didn't say anything explicitly derogatory or offensive, but I'm of the opinion that her complaint about my video was still rooted in prejudice. It's important to note that subtle forms of racism, can be just as damaging as more obvious acts of discrimination1.
In this situation, I'm questioning myself whether I should say something to her, ignore her and continue enjoying my video or just let it go. On one hand, I don't want to cause a scene or make things uncomfortable for myself and the other person sitting beside her.
Another aspect of racism that I've struggled with is the idea of tolerance. In theory, tolerance is a good thing. It's important to be open-minded and accepting of others, even if they're different from us. However, there comes a point where tolerance becomes harmful. When we tolerate racism and other forms of discrimination, we're essentially saying that it's okay for people to hold these beliefs and act on them. This is where the line between morals and tolerance becomes blurred. This is also why actions against anti-racism has always been a difficult balance to strike, and one that we are still all figuring out.
Anyways, while I was still deliberating on which action to take, she approached her own stop apparently, then alighted from the bus. Again, leaving me even more reasons to question why she complained in the first place when she was almost reaching her destination.
I think this incident made me realise how important it is to recognise and address the subtleties of racism. Again, she may not have been racist, or she may – I still find this inconclusive. However, this opens room to reflect on the complexities of prejudice and discrimination amongst different races all over the world.