I thought I’d share an incident that happened to my 18-year-old niece today in Chelmsford, Essex. Me and my family are of south Asian ethnicity, born and raised in the UK. I’m nearly 40 and I can’t believe I’m still having to share stories like these. My niece works in a café part-time and has done so for 2 years. She’s experienced plenty of rude customers and abrupt behaviour, but only now is she learning and noticing the difference between the behaviour of pedantic idiots and actual racists. It’s not always apparent as it is covert, and we as a family are actively learning more about being anti-racist.
Today she had a particularly rude customer who, at every corner, kept complaining about my niece and her service. Bear in mind my niece is one of the star employees and she’s never had a customer complain about her. My niece was doing her utmost to make sure the customer was given good service. However, the manager got involved and took over in serving her. The manager kept coming back to the counter, becoming more red-faced as she was sending him back to re-make the coffee. My niece spoke to him and noticed he was shaking. He didn’t say what she had said, so my niece thought he was just getting frustrated. After the 4th time, my niece took over from him again, and gave the customer the coffee. She complained again saying there wasn’t enough in the mug and that she thought my niece was being rude. I know my niece, she is as well spoken as they can be. Then another member of staff came and told my niece to just remain behind the counter until that customer left. So my niece did exactly that. Then An argument ensued and my niece could hear her colleague say to the customer “We do not tolerate such behaviour.” The woman was basically spending her time complaining and getting the staff to take back the food, but discussions were being had away from my niece. Then my niece heard the staff give a refund and ask the woman to leave. My niece wanted to know what was going on and why she was being kept away, until the manager said that she was complaining about my niece, making racist remarks and comments, claiming my niece needed to ‘learn English’ and ‘coming to this country not knowing English’. My niece was horrified and broke into tears. It’s never ever an easy thing to hear, and even though I’ve experienced this many times for many years, it never becomes something you get used to. The staff were supportive and said that they had already contacted HR, reported the incident and banned the woman from entering. They kept my niece away to protect her from the abusive woman.
This is a regular occurrence in Essex and I’m absolutely sick of it! I hate the fact that my colour skin is always going to be a target of ridicule and abuse. Nothing seems to change and people remain uneducated, misinformed and ignorant. It’s not like Chelmsford isn’t a diverse city. It’s become more diverse, but ever more ignorant! I’m disgusted by that woman’s behaviour, but thankful the staff members supported my niece. However, I’m still not happy about the action they took. Perhaps they were aware of how sensitive my niece is, but I believe this woman should be reported to the police. Personally, I feel she was bullying my niece and continued complaining because my niece was serving her and automatically had something against her because of skin colour. When another member of staff served her, she started being racist, and made sure not to be directly racist to my niece! It’s despicable! I’m glad the staff members did what they could to make sure my niece didn’t hear it, but I think the moment they heard her spout any racial slur they should have taken action there and then.
This is just one incident, and sadly I know that this will not be the last! That’s the most depressing thing! I don’t like this culture of not standing up to racism. This needs to change and needs to be dealt with immediately.
I just wanted to share this. Thank you for reading. I only hope for better change! Nobody should have to go through this abhorrent experience. Racism literally kills innocent people and I just hope one day we can live in peace without fear of harm all because of the colour of our skin!
Written by a LTAR Facebook group member.