questions about racism

Before The Tempest, Grace and I decided to go to a cafe in Camden to have lunch and work until the production started. We were the most productive that either of us had been the entire trip and enjoyed the best hot chocolate so far. This positive experience was tainted, however, while we were walking from the cafe to the theatre. We passed a disheveled and obviously drunk man harassing the veiled, presumably muslim women on the street and spitting “you fucking muslim scum” at them. I have never before witnessed such blatant and public racism and it shook us both up a little bit. We discussed how to respond to an instance of hatred like this. Do you intervene and point out that no, in fact, the man himself is scum? I don’t think so. What was strikingly sad to me was the realization his hatred and anger must come from somewhere. People don’t wander around harassing people unless you harbor some level of self-hate and insecurity. Calling him scum might just perpetuate the problem. Do you, instead, offer some words of support or apology to the women? That could be more appropriate considering it focuses on the positive and creates a notion of camaraderie, but maybe its self righteous and absurd for me to think that we should have done anything, or that anything we did would be at all helpful.
There were countless times both in London and Turkey that I found myself viewing aspects of another culture and lamenting my own American societies short comings. America does a lot of things wrong, and racism is clearly not eliminated in our culture, but I have never witnessed such an obvious display of hatred. Maybe it is a result of where I grew up, Baltimore is roughly 60 percent Black and so, perhaps there is no room for that level of ignorance. Colorado College is on the other end of the spectrum with the most pathetic lack of diversity that I have ever witnessed, and there is no opportunity for racism. That being said, Baltimore is highly segregated still and its not really any better to have the racism and inequality exist in such a silent, and therefore somehow more excusable way. The city is riddled with drug crimes and has one of the highest rates of homicide in the country. Just because you don’t see white citizens verbally harassing minorities does not mean that we have come close to solving the problem of inequality.
I don’t know what to think.
For all I know, someone will find something problematic and ignorant in this blog post. It is interesting, though, how one fleeting experience like that can stay with you and result in so many questions.