Last week my seventy year old mother, who walks with the aid of a stick, was deemed a security threat by a bus driver.
The driver had already failed to stop for her once, yet was very quick to call the police when she tried to board the bus on her second attempt, using her stick to keep the back door open.
Yes, it was naughty, and she shouldn’t have done it, but waiting for half an hour for a bus when you’ve recovering from a knee replacement operation is not exactly a pleasurable experience. Watching it drive past you twice is painful.
This isn’t just an everyday sorry tale of an inconsiderate driver and a disabled passenger. My mum wears a headscarf; and in the current political climate she has become a target for a whole range of prejudice and racist stereotyping.
“You could be a terrorist” barks the bus driver.
“Do I look like a terrorist?” my mother asks.
Sniggers from driver and the three racist old ladies who have been most outraged at my mum’s petulant behaviour.
Their sniggers meaning that “yes actually you do; you look like one of ‘them’”.
“I’m tired of watching you lot break the law”, snipes one of the old ladies.
“You’re being racist” my mother retorts, “I just wanted to get on the bus!”
“Me a racist?” shouts the bus driver. “Well we shall see what the police have to say about that!”
And so the police were called. They asked my mum for ID, and took her address and date of birth.
“The bus driver said I was a terrorist. She’s being racist!” My mum complains to the police officer.
“No she’s not!” The policeman snaps back. “That’s the terminology that’s used these days, love”.
My mum is confused, upset and angry for being treated like a criminal.
“Well I’ll close the case and put it down as a misunderstanding” says the PC.
A misunderstanding? A woman who has spent two days crying in front of her T.V, watching terrorist bombers rip apart her native Pakistan is then herself accused of being a terrorist! A misunderstanding? A woman who has used London’s buses for forty years and who today couldn’t board a bus without being subject to suspicious glances and accusations of being suicide bomber!
A misunderstanding? You could call it that. Or you could say it was a sign of the racist and bigoted times we are living in.