My part Jamaican friend was the first person who had ever explained to me, what it was like to be on the receiving end of racism. She had told me for example, that her respectable accountant brother, had been stopped and searched on more than one occasion. She was once in a high-end store looking at wedding dresses with me, when she had apparently been made to feel uncomfortable by the sales assistants.
I was shocked the other day, when I had witnessed first-hand a racist incident myself. I was upset that I had been too slow to react, as I had not realised till too late what was happening. I had been waiting at a bus stop when two Chinese girls had been quietly chatting and minding their own business. Another woman had come along and had appeared to join in their conversation. Just before the end of the dialogue, I had finally realised that the young girls were being berated for conversing in a language other than English, I had not noticed there was anything wrong, as the young girls had handled things so politely and calmly.
As soon as I had ascertained what was happening, I had spoken to one of the young girls and apologised for not having defended them. She had mentioned that she and her friend had simply been trying to have a private conversation in their own language. I had wanted to give her a hug but had felt helpless.
How many times had I engaged in a private conversation, in English with a friend, whilst I was on my travels? Nobody has ever criticised me for it. The world is a richer place for our diversity. I love listening to people speaking other languages. I think it is a shame that some find the use of a language other than English,( or perhaps more particularly a different race) so threatening.