Words By: Diva Muni
“What do you expect, huh?” A loud, angry voice yelled behind me as I finished work for the day and was about to leave. I work in a shopping centre, a hive of activity whole day long. One sees lots of attitudes there – from petty, shallow and extremely rude to touchingly noble and deeply humane acts that are performed on the go.
I turned around, startled. A lady in white was addressing a group of four African women wearing hijabs, She must have been in her fifties if a day, Caucasian and looked rather well off. The group of women being addressed was obviously related to each other and the ages ranged from around 14 -15 to late thirties.
“What do you expect?” the lady in white screeched again, now looming over the shortest girl and pointing an accusing finger at her mother who was standing behind her. Too close, encroaching on the personal space. “Go back to where you came from. We don’t need the likes of you here.”
By now, the people in the corridor were all at a standstill. Looking on in horror for the most part, and some of them loudly muttering, “What’s wrong with her?” “She’s so rude!” Just then, two blonde high school girls walked past me, and I could hear one of them saying, “Racist Bitch!” with a look of pure disgust on her face.
That made me smile, finding a grain of positivity in that sentence. If our teenagers are that aware and sensitive, we are doing something right. Schools are much more diverse now, the openness to different cultures, values and belief systems bring a new level of understanding in play. This also translates in to more tolerance, less bullying, groupism losing its frightful hold and eventually, decrease in addiction in the young. Considering that trying out addictive substances starts with keeping up appearances within your group and to be a safe member of it. Now it is more acceptable to be different, not want to be a part of it all, and still possible to have friends.
Coming back to the scene being played out, the woman now shouted, “Look at what you’re wearing!” A snigger followed. “You look like witches!”
The mother had by now gathered her wits about her and told her girls to move, snapping them out of their wide eyed trance at the assaulter, they promptly shut their mouths which were hanging open in astonishment and they all moved away. Someone looked at me and said, “How rude is she?”
After about five minutes of this incident, I felt like I should have said something to the woman, done something to protect them. If we look on passively on a wrong doing, are we not also guilty? What would be the best course of action however? How do you handle it tactfully and with tolerance and kindness towards the attacker as well?
I was still standing there, idly browsing with unseeing eyes, working it out in my head and an old lady was sitting there on a bench, the group of women just then exited the store they had taken refuge in and she addressed them. She said, “I am extremely sorry my dears, for what she said. She’s just afraid. Let me apologise for her, please know that not all of us are like that.”
There – what my musings couldn’t come up with, age and experience came up with in an instant. Tying together all the sentiments and emotions for both the parties in one swift move. Bless her.
This happened the day after the car was lit outside the mosque in Thornlie. As an expat, I’ve seen how humans can quickly become violent, in this peaceful country – I don’t want that. Anyone that has actually seen violence in its raw form, do not want it to follow them here. One act of violence can inspire another in retaliation. Our hope is tolerance though, as acts of kindness inspire ten more acts of kindness.
In conclusion, I only wish I had had the presence of mind to tell this lady, that actually, there is nothing wrong with looking like a witch, really. Witches can be quite glamorous.