Friday, September 28, 2012

Racists on the train

On Thursday 26th of September 2012, at approximately 8:45pm, I was with a few friends (all Asian, all born and raised in Australia) at Ferntree Gully railway station waiting for the city-bound train. We were doing what friends do when we're bored, just swapping stories and jokes, nothing lewd, trying to pass the time. Sitting within earshot of us, however, were three skimpily dressed Caucasian teenage females, who threw a few disparaging remarks at us from afar about not being able to understand us, sarcastic imitation laughter whenever we laughed, and so on. A short while later one of the girls approached us and, in deliberately polite but no nonsense terms, told us to shut up. She followed up with a request for cigarettes, then complimented one of my friends on the glasses he was wearing. She then stated, rather matter-of-factly, that she would "roll him" for those glasses, that she would push him in front of a train, and then she retuned to her two waiting friends. We resumed our carefree banter but with a slight edge that hadn't been there previously. A few minutes later the train arrived and two of our group departed for their car, leaving three of us to board the train.

When the train stopped a few stations later, one of the girls ran from the carriage ahead of us along the platform to the carriage behind ours, while her two friends followed by passing through the inter-carriage gangplank. These two sterling individuals drew level with where my two friends and I were seated just as one of my friends tried to pass me the paperback novel he had been carrying. One girl grabbed onto the book from his outstretched hand and tried to continue walking, but I had a firm grip on it and wrested it from her, and the two continued on their way down the aisle. But before they left the carriage one of them threw back the following phrase:

"Fucking Asians."

Mercifully, this was the last time we saw them on our journey (or at least before I got off at my stop). But one of my friends did raise an interesting point before I left; how do you respond to a racist like that?

There are three approaches that I could come up with, each as unsuitable as the next. The first, responding intelligently with reference to their increased likelihood of obesity, disease and early death would be unintelligible to them; in simple terms, they are too stupid to insult. Resorting to their level of intelligence, the second option, is overly antagonistic, with retorts such as "fuck off white trash" more likely to lead to a physical confrontation than a peaceful resolution. The third, to simply ignore their ridicule, simply emboldens their racism and encourages them to further their attacks in the absence of a response. Silence solves nothing, especially since without a proportional and measured response there can be no deterrence of future racism.

The only viable solution I could think of, as I sat on my lonely bus ride home, would be to deliberately and aggressively reinforce their racist notions in order to belittle them. This, I thought, could be done by pretending not to understand English, and responding only in an Asian language (for the brave of heart, phrases such as "Ohh me ching chong chinaman" would serve a similar purpose. As Sun Tzu said, "the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself"). Their lack of comprehension would serve only to confuse them and give rise to a sense of dumbfound stupidity, reinforced by the laughter of my fellow comrades. Worst case scenario, escalated violence is a possibility but with them as the clear aggressor. The best case would result in them simply walking away, either smugly justified in their racism or feeling confused and unintelligent.

Thoughts and opinions?