I was on a business trip and stayed at a hotel in Cambridge.
One morning I walked in the restaurant for breakfast and amongst others, I saw a middle-aged lady and a much older lady having breakfast. I smiled as I do always to anyone I see but the smile was not reciprocated. I assumed they didn’t see me or were in deep thought and thought nothing of it.
After finishing my breakfast I went into my room and started doing some work, I heard a couple of people trying to enter their room next door to me and were clearly having trouble getting in. This went on for a while and I thought of checking and offering help.
As I walked out onto the corridor, I saw that it was the same two ladies I had seen during breakfast. I explained to the ladies that it seemed that their key card had been canceled. After I explained this, the middle-aged lady went to the reception to reactivate it whilst I stayed speaking with the older lady (her mum). They were in Cambridge for a little break and visiting the cathedral and local sites.
The mum asked me how I felt being a foreigner living in their country and taking jobs whilst leaving them short of opportunities. I was a little taken back at first but soon composed myself to see this question for what it was and not take it personally.
I replied, ‘I have worked since I was 16 and never claimed any benefits, I have paid my taxes and my bills. I lived by the laws set by the country so I don’t feel bad. I have a job where I am helping people to work and making a difference in society.’
Her reply was that her granddaughter was a graduate and worked hard to get where she was and now couldn’t get a job because the likes of myself have taken them. By this time, the daughter arrived and was shocked at her mum’s questioning, and apologised to me. I replied to her daughter, ‘Don’t worry, this is something that is upsetting your mum, I’d rather she asked me then someone else.’ I assured her that I had taken no offence.
I turned to the mother and said, ‘ I am sorry your granddaughter is struggling to find employment, please give her my business card and ask her to give me a call and I’ll see how I can help her.’ I also gave her insight that no matter what colour we are, there were so many Indians, black and white people in jobs, and many struggling to find employment as well.
She was thankful for giving her a little broader picture of the mindset she had, as growing up in her community, she didn’t have experience of being around people who did not look like her.
After this, for the rest of my 3 days there she kept asking how my day was and she wished me well when I was leaving.
Let’s talk without taking offence. Each person has good and no redress will come from anger and attack. I am glad I took the time to understand the ladies I met, it made me and hopefully them grow too. And that is what happens when we remain open and listen.
Let us talk and listen more.
Written by Kaz Halai
To read more articles by Kaz Halai go to her website https://www.theworldwhisperer.com/ignorance-vs-racism/