Saturday 11 April 2015

Racial Incident on the Rough Bus

At last I went outdoors. It was sunny but not really warm. There was a cold wind, so I wore my green-blue tam, scarf and mittens with my green-blue coat. And, not to put a fine point on it, three days of virus had left me the colour of mould, so I had put some make-up on. Off I went in the direction of the train station, thinking of curry.

I terribly wanted curry. Curry would taste like something. Food has not really been tasting like much lately. Proper food, I mean. Doritos, yesterday's craving, taste like Doritos, no matter what. 

I ran out of energy before I got to the train station, so I took refuge from the wind in a bus shelter and panted a bit and blew my nose. The Rough Bus appeared over the bridge, so I got on the Rough Bus and took a seat near the front. 

Eventually and surprisingly, a very tall, clean-shaven, western-clothed South Asian youth got on. It was surprising because I don't see a lot of South Asians on the Rough Bus and never at that bus stop. And this one was extremely tall, had neither bag nor baggage, and looked a bit crazy. He folded himself into a seat, looked around with huge empty eyes and then stared at the ceiling.  After observing him nervously, I decided that he was probably simple rather than crazy and also completely harmless. 

One or two stops later, a Typical Rough Bus Young Couple got on, by which I mean he was skinny and violent-looking, and she was almost as round as a ball. They were, naturally, Scottish (or, to give the word its Rough Bus pronunciation, Scaw'ish), and he had red, which is to say, orange hair. Orange hair, orange eyebrows, orange eyelashes, insofar as he had eyelashes, rather like me. If I had had a son, he would have looked like Carrot Top. He was the same dead white colour as my coughing self. He could have been my second cousin.

However,  he was not one of our beautiful redheads. No. In fact, when I saw him, I was very tempted to move farther back down the bus. Had the bus been an elevator I would have got off at once. He horsed around with his giggling girlfriend until he spotted the tall South Asian chap, and then his dead white face creased with hatred and contempt.

"Aw," he said to the clean-shaven South Asian chap. "Whut are you daein' here? You're disgustin'."

"Oh mah goad shu'up," murmured his round dark-haired girlfriend. "Oh mah goad shu'up."

She shook with silent giggles. 

"Disgustin'," repeated Carrot Top.

"Oh yeah, and you're a member of the Master Race," I thought sourly, as he made nasty remarks about the "benefits" (welfare) he assumed the thin giant was on. But what could I do? I was as weak as a kitten, and I knew from long experience that Edinburgh bus drivers do not leave their protective booths for anything. If I told Carrot Top to shut his racist face, the Incident would escalate and involve little me, who probably shouldn't have been out of bed. 

Eventually Carrots lost interest in his victim, but I wondered what I could have done, if anything. Maybe I could have got up pointedly and sat beside the South Asian guy. At very least that might have cheered him up. When I glanced at him, he was looking out the window. Although a head or more taller than Carrots, he hadn't said boo. 

I am not exactly a saint of political correctness. I have been contemplating the powerlessness of founding peoples in the face of mass migration since "the Italian girls" were mean to me in elementary school.* But one thing that gets up my nose more than anything else in Scotland is Scots racially bullying others on public transport. 

I realize that these bullies are usually Scots of the "socially excluded class" and that British post-war history has handed them a raw deal. I understand that there are fewer than 5 million Scots resident in Scotland whereas there are 38 million Poles resident in Poland and a billion Indians in India. When you're talking world minorities, the blue-eyed, red-haired, Scotland-born Scottish one is mighty small, and if such Scots go south for work they run the risk of being called "Ging-er" and "Jock" and given a hard time about the SNP. Heck, when my red-haired great-grandfather George emigrated to English-speaking Canada in 1900 he was called "Scotty" for the rest of his life, and his son was generally known as "Red." 

However, bullying people on the bus for their origins is lower than low, and it happens way too often for my liking. People can think whatever they like, and they can certainly say whatever they like in the privacy of their own homes, and if they are that exercised about migration, they can vote UKIP and give the other parties a good scare. But on public transport everyone can and should keep a civil tongue in their heads. 

Finally I decided that what I could do was get up when the South Asian guy got up and stand between him and my fellow ginger, so at very least Carrots couldn't hit him on the way out. And when we both got off the bus, I said, "I'm sorry you had to put up with that."

"Thank you," he said in a high, flute-like voice and eventually loped across the street.

*And, yes, that most certainly includes the various tribes of 16th-19th century North America trying to cope with the sudden and overwhelming influx of Europeans.


  1. Yeah. There a racist bogans like that in Australia too. And you are right -- why is that bogan couples seem to always feature a rail-skinny man and a seriously overweight woman?

  2. Food and drink issues of particular problem for bogans, if a bogan means a "socially excluded person". I know "socially excluded person" is p.c. speak, but I really hate the alternatives, especially when in Scotland they are actually native to the place, family lines stretching back a thousand years or thousands of years to the Angles, Gaels and Picts.

    1. "Bogan" has many shades of meaning, and some Australians declare proudly that they are bogans. In general it means someone rough, uncultured and uncouth, but not necessarily "pov" (poor). There are now "cashed-up" bogans. I guess the British equivalents would be chavs, anyone on Geordie Shore, and all the sport WAGs.

    2. I love the expression "cashed-up bogan."

  3. I got around to looking at the census link you posted. I figured Scotland was white, but I didn't realize it was that white. I can imagine that seeing any person who doesn't look or sound like oneself is perceived as an instant threat and an invasion.

  4. I think that greatly depends on where you are on the social scale and how much privilege you've grown up with. Someone like B.A., who went to university, doesn't feel like he has to fight strangers for scraps. The unemployed kid drunk at 2 in the afternoon who shouted at me and the Polish storekeeper to speak English? He's probably confused as to why, if there's no work for him, there's plenty of work for Poles. But neither B.A. nor the drunk kid is likely to vote for the one big anti-immigration party in the UK, UKIP.

    It goes without saying that Scotland is that white because (A) from the beginning of time until 1960 almost all Scots (Picts, Gaels, Vikings, Angles, Romans who went native, Saxons, Normans, French courtiers, about twelve Lithuanian Jews, returned Italian POWs and marooned Polish soldiers) were white. And Scotland has been dead poor for almost as long, so it's not a place non-European migrants are itching to populate.

    Speaking of UKIP, the threats and invasions the Scots worry about and resent the most are the English ones.


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