Monday, December 07, 2020

"I am bottom of the pile here"


 Not so long ago I heard somebody in the grove of academe prating something to the effect of racism being something that only white folks did, that this was axiomatic because of the hegemony of the orientalist nexus in the post-colonial discourse, or words to that effect. Then I remembered Martin Jacques:


That evening the duty doctor came to see her. I asked him various questions and received only evasive responses. I had been anxious for the medical staff to be aware that I was white; in Hong Kong my colour commanded deference and respect, the opposite to how they saw Hari's beautiful deep brown complexion. When he left, I said to her: "A fat lot of use that was." She replied: "I am bottom of the pile here." Her words travelled through my body like an electric shock.The hospital staff were no different to the rest of Hong Kong. Prejudice was ingrained and systemic. Hari's words were all the more disturbing because they were so uncharacteristic. She was uncomplaining, patient and extraordinarily compassionate. She would see prejudice as an affliction of the perpetrator that needed her help and kindness to overcome. But lying in hospital, vulnerable and unwell, was a different matter. She uttered these words with a sense of resignation. When I asked her what she meant – expecting her to give examples – she simply said: "I am Indian and everyone else here is Chinese." The staff were no doubt unaware that Hari was fluent in Cantonese and could understand the racial epithets they were using to refer to her. I told Hari I was going to get her discharged. I went to see the nurse, debating in my mind whether to take her home there and then or in the morning. I opted for the morning because she was still unwell. It was the worst decision I have ever made. 


The Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus:




 

No comments: