Europe has always looked down its nose at America’s treatment of Black citizens, claiming they are much more sophisticated than the U.S. But that may be more myth than reality. A Black British poet recently described being racially abused on a train.
Siana Bangura, a poet and writer, told The Voice, a paper serving Britain’s Black community, she was riding a train from London to Liverpool when a drunken passenger started hurling racist insults at her. According to Bangura, the passenger also made monkey noises at her, called her a “black n***er bitch” and a “monkey”.
Bangura also said her attacker, who accused Africans of spreading diseases, allegedly threw a glass jar of honey and attempted to strike her. She told The Voice, her attacker probably saw her as an easy target.
“I think he thought he would get away with it,” she said. “He saw me as a little Black girl. I don’t look particularly threatening. I don’t think he put a lot of thought to it.”
Bangura said she was particularly surprised that no one stepped forward to intervene.
“I felt quite naïve. I thought in this day and age a lot more people were ‘woke’ and would understand the importance of sticking together, so I guess I felt really let down,” she said. “I think it was a train of people who think they’re good people, who think they’re not racist. I’m sure there were people there who may have agreed with some of the things he was saying, but even then I don’t imagine their support being anything more than the usual ‘immigrants have taken our jobs.’ I don’t think many of them would have condoned his behavior.”
Bangura added that many Britons have a two-faced approach to racism. They like to think it’s not an issue, but they often make racist comments in private.
“It’s just not a British thing to do to be so plain speaking with your racism. They prefer to be hypocrites and pretend, say one thing to your face and cuss you behind your back. I think it made them very uncomfortable. Their silence to me spoke volumes,” Bangura said.
The attack finally stopped when a passenger called police, who arrested the man. The Voice reported the 37-year-old man from Liverpool had been bailed out pending further inquiries until Dec. 4.
Bangura also shared her story on Twitter, where she received an outpouring of support. She hoped sharing her story would encourage people to be more proactive if confronted with a similar situation.
“I want people to ask themselves ‘what would you have done?’ I want people to see that this society isn’t post-racial at all, the racism is just more nuanced. I want people to be shocked that we’re in a society where people can be paralyzed so much by fear that they don’t do anything and that kills people,” she told The Voice.
Incidents like this are not uncommon in Europe. Earlier this year, British soccer fans barred a Black man from entering a train in France. According to The Guardian, the group was heard chanting: “We’re racist, we’re racist and that’s the way we like it.” Four Chelsea Football Club fans were later fined and banned from attending soccer games for five years.