A skinhead was at my house a few days ago.
And, you know what? It was interesting.
Now, I really don’t want this to come across hatefully or ignorantly, but I don’t know how else to put it… I judged him first. Tacitly and silently, I sized him up. See, I thought he was mentally challenged. Style of speech, physical characteristics (including height and build), behavioural mannerisms… I observed those things and came to the conclusion that it must be something like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
I didn’t notice the bald head. Or the stylised swastika tattoo on his left arm. Not at first, anyway.
As I watched this stranger on the deck, I remembered going to school with someone who was dealing with FAS. I still see him every now and again, and he’s always in a hurry. He always has been. Runs everywhere. He always has time for you, though. And to this date, he’s one of the most avuncular people I know. Like an instant brother, he’d fold up my detention slips into origami swans for me, only to score his very own slip to mess with, seeing as he disrupted everybody by throwing mine back at me. Later that afternoon, we’d be raiding resource closets to leave ‘messages’ in textbooks (Sorry, but Amber really was “a finger-trap with a fuck for a face”. More on her another time, though. Another highlight was seeing “crab cunt” in painfully neat cursive. Once upon a time, some itchy kid with a steady hand and fancy pencils must have failed quadratics, I guess. I digress).
After a while, I couldn’t control my curiosity. Let’s just say, I asked someone else if he was OK / high / drunk / just plain bad-mannered… and I got an answer like, “What? He’s fine. Yeah, he’s a bit much at first, but he’s not so bad once you get to know him. Sorry about that.”
As we all sat down in another room in the house, he hitched up his sleeve. And, there it was. Sure, my skin may be offensive to some, but at least it’s pigmentation that’s fucking reasonable.
I responded with silent fury. Impotent annoyance, backed by years of resentment. Who do I blame for the fact I’m tolerating this? Is it my fault for not enforcing what I thought should have been an obvious boundary? Is it my roommate’s girlfriend, for being friends with this person? Or is it my roommate’s fault for insisting they come around? Or is it this maladjusted hillbilly who’s really to blame? His parentage (or lack thereof)? Hitler? Hate? Humans? The world at large? My parents, for being two different colours, and mixing them together in this meat-puppet of a body I have no choice but to inhabit?
WHY IS MY SHADE OF BEIGE TOO BURNT FOR SOME?
AND WHY ON EARTH IS THIS HAPPENING IN MY HOME?
Then I realised something. Sure, it’s not my fault how much melanin manifests itself through my god-damned epidermis, irises and hair, but some people can’t control the fact they think it’s OK to be properly fucked up. And why respond to discrimination with more discrimination? No, we all know that’s a losing game. For losers. What do you do with someone who’s decided to psychotically cling to an insecurity-triggered delusion like that? Punch some sense into him, like I knew I wanted to? Yeah, and I bet he’d have responded in kind by slapping the genetics out of my face. I froze in horror, then stayed silent until everyone left again.
I treat ardent racists like angry, wild animals. Sometimes, if I can’t get away in time, I’ll get aggressive. It’s not a smart thing to do, which is why it’s to be avoided. Otherwise, I’ll stay as still as I can until they fuck off. Or just run… yeah, running’s good. Especially if they’re in a pack, screaming “OI OI CINDER SLUT, GET ON THIS LEASH” just a block ahead.
And, just like creatures in the wild, sometimes they do things I can’t help but laugh at. Cute stuff. Things I can try to understand. Like, the children they don’t abandon, they’re fiercely protective of. They look out for their own, they have perceived prey, and in turn feel preyed upon. They have their own sayings, their own hand gestures, their places they like to hang around. They feel like outsiders, only accepted by their own.
They’ve put themselves in my position, in a lot of ways, by choice. And they have no idea.
In that instant, I could feel only pity.