The case of the Chelsea racism on the Paris Metro continues to be typical of British responses.
The former policeman, Richard Barklie, who shoved Souleyman Sylla off the train in Paris now claims that Sylla was “using aggression” and that was why he pushed him. Re-watching the video, Sylla steps on to the train. He does not, as I have seen in London, use his bag as a battering ram, or hold on to the bar while he kicks a place clear for his feet. He simply steps on to the train.
Crucially, though, he steps on to the train while Black.
Blackness is perceived as aggression in so many instances. I won’t go through the American cases again, you know about Trayvon Martin and his aggressive Skittle purchasing and Renisha McBride and her aggressive car troubles.
Here’s how it plays out in the UK. R once had an office assistant who told everyone, including HR, that R had threatened her life. Some people in R’s office still believe it. R regularly stays up past midnight to make sure that everyone gets a homemade birthday cake, she remembers the names of people’s grandkids and always knows who has had a haircut. People believed that this person would make a woman who worked for her “fear for her life”.
R had to correct an employee and she did so, but she did it while Black; that is why the woman feared her and that is why people were so willing to believe her story. If R was white, what would the story have been?
I suspect that there are people watching the film from the Paris Metro and saying to themselves “Well he did try and push his way on to the train, he was pretty aggressive”. Try this. Try picturing the same action performed by a white man. Does he look aggressive now or does he look like a man who trying to get to work?