Over a week ago I met an old woman named Mary. She has an unusual appearance and a deformed face and is retired in France with her husband. When I first saw her I greeted her and remembered clearly saying “it’s nice to meet you.” But she didn’t respond. I didn’t want to think too much into it. As we were all sitting around and chatting, I got on quite well with her husband talking about accents. He and a few others made fun of my American accent and I laughed about it or picked at theirs. It was nothing personal. At times it did feel a bit too much but I decided to just let it go. As we moved to the dining table and had our take aways, she made fun of the pizza I got saying “who eats pizza?” And went on about fish & chips should have been my order. Another gentleman offered me some chips and I politely refused and said no thanks to the fries. She dived in to this conversation explaining to me the difference between chips and crisps. She stated that my English was wrong that American English wasn’t English. I was lost for words and decided to ignore her comment and continued chatting with the others while we had our dinner. This escalated in a short span of time with the continuous interruption whenever I spoke to others. Her interruption was only to correct my English; my choice of words and colloquialism. At one point she was hung up on the phrase “it don’t matter”. She repeatedly pronounced and spelt out the word “matter” like I was 5. Stressing on the “t” sound. Then she said “don’t” isn’t correct which I agreed that grammatically it’s incorrect but it’s still used in conversational English as part of its colloquialism. After I was done with pizza I was offered chips again and said “I’m good” and she argued that that makes no sense. Again insisting on correcting the use of my English. My Brit said that this is commonly used and Brits do say that. She didn’t have that and so on it went with her insults. Her insults about the way I spoke and my accent carried on and on and on.
As I reflect on what happened; I find it hard to believe that racism still exists in countries like the UK. At first I felt offended but as I’ve stepped back from the incident I can see that she lives in another time. A time when the UK was mainly for the Whites and it was them who spoke ‘real’ English. Perhaps for her globalization and different Englishes aren’t something she understands and hasn’t taken it on board. Due to this she doesn’t treat others with the same respect and she has created a divide between herself and other colored skin. I suppose I should feel sad for someone like her who is stuck in the past. Her own stubbornness of not wanting to see the world today for what it is affects her from learning from other cultures and growing as an individual. When I discussed this with my monk he reminded me of something — what is out there is within us. So if I’m sensitive to racism then there must be something unsettled within me probably from the past. If it gets to me then it is my issue that needs to be worked on. At the end of it all, I can choose to let it get to me or let it go. Tough one eh!? It doesn’t mean that she is right but as the saying goes we can’t change others so I have to look within myself.
“Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.” Muhammad Ali