I was on the train home last week when three fairly ‘hard’ looking scouse workers sat in the three seats surrounding me. They were already in the middle of animated conversation about a Muslim work colleague. The conversation went on a bit like this –
‘Eee goes off to pray all the time’
‘Yeah then ‘ee doesn’t ‘ave breaks with the rest of uz during that Ramadan thingy’
I braced myself for a racist rant. They went on –
‘Fair dooz like. It’s ‘iz religion. Respect ‘im like.’
‘Izz right. That’s iz yooman right’
‘Izz that lad. Dee shud give him a break out place where ‘ee can go..’
And so they carried on, affirming and supporting him. I wanted to hug them. But then thought – I had been expecting them to come out with stereotypical comments. In fact I was the one who was guilty of stereotyping, because they looked a bit scary and spoke in very broad scouse accents with the odd ‘F’ word thrown in.
I am the one who goes on and on about justice and, albeit briefly, had unfairly passed judgment on someone else!
That’s the thing about injustice. It affects real people. Behind every person who is threatened with homelessness or is a victim of catastrophic injuries, or who is having to face the humiliation of a food bank, is a real story. Injustice happens when they are depersonalised. When they become a ‘problem’ on the one hand or a ‘cause’ on the other. We can all be guilty of being too concerned about being ‘right’ than about being fair.
When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus, she wasn’t intending to change the world –
‘All I was doing was trying to get home from work.’
So here is belated thanks to those guys on the train.
A timely lesson in the real world.