Prejudice Begins At Home

Mum has spotted a skin-black Sikh
Colourfully turbaned
Smart suited
Suitcase in hand
Walk up neighbour's path
Stand back
Duck down
Behind curtains
Where he can't see us
She says
Now he opens our gate
Duck down
Out of sight
Pretend we aren't in
As he knocks on the door
Stay there
Till he gives up and leaves
Faces in our village
Are all white
Other colours not welcome

"I can't stand them"
She readily admits
When introduced to a black person once
She refused to shake hands
"Couldn't bear to touch that skin"
She says
Locked in phobia
Fear of the alien but real fear
Brought up in the North of England
Where no black faces
Ever appeared
Yet she was the nicest of people
Got on with everyone
Not an enemy in a village of gossipers

Gypsy women selling pegs
Are in the village
Don't open the door she says
Stay hidden
Pretend we're not in
The same with male tinkers
Unless mum actually needs pegs
Or a pan mended
Or a knife sharpened
When prejudice
Is overcome
The thought of a bargain
Swings the balance
Or is it fear of the evil eye

In London urban village
Years later
Multi-ethnic community
West Indian, Chinese, Pakistani, Cypriot, Irish
As well as English
We feel at home
Easy
Everyone seems to get on
Prejudices against early immigrants
Have softened
But have they gone
Crept indoors maybe
Except for necessary exchanges
In shops, restaurants, doctor's surgeries
But some cross-race socializing apparent

Moved to central Dublin urban village
Still later
White faces vastly predominate
Seeming strange
"All these blacks coming in"
Says a neighbour
Angrily
"Where? " we ask. "Where? "
Looking round
Remembering London
Lucky if we can see one dark face
In fifty

Pleasantly
The proportion increases
A local Irish man
Cycles past
Two Nigerians
Walking along the pavement
In quiet conversation
He spits towards them
"Go home niggers"
He yells
But
What have they done to him?
Is this the same prejudice all over?
Yet the Irish themselves
Subjects of prejudice hatred even riots
In other lands
Other times

Irrelevant
He would say
This is my home
I don't want them here
Home is for people like me only
So home is where prejudice begins

In country town Drogheda
One evening
Unexpectedly
Local pub doors
Are closed locked
Tap on the window
Door opens and
Recognized
We are urged inside
"Tinkers in town"
He whispers
Explaining
From past experience
Once allowed in a pub
A few pints too many
Fights start
Pub décor is trashed
Bar staff attacked
Is this prejudice
Or self-protection
From a recognized danger?
Still fear though

by Roger Hudson

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