Stories of Kindness from Around the World

Colourblind Kindness

--by happyncheerful, posted Jan 12, 2008
He was a tall black man, with a generous build and he was walking straight towards me. Dressed casually in a gleaming white tracksuit that hung loosely on him, and a hood that covered both his head and part of his face, he looked like any of the number of black men described in daily news bulletins as being wanted for robberies or similar crimes. If it had been dark, I would have moved quickly in the opposite direction. As it was, it was broad daylight and I was waiting for a bus with my sister. We were on a quiet side street: no cars or people in sight. I unwittingly inhaled sharply, my body cautiously preparing itself for fight or flight.

I shudder at the thought of being a racist, but even racists hate the idea of simply discriminating against someone based on what they look like. What we hate, and how we behave, I realise, are two very different things.

He came over and stood at a polite distance; a few yards away from us. I buried my ice-cold hands deeper into my coat pockets, shuffling around to keep warm. There was only the slightest breeze in the air, but the arctic temperatures penetrated through both cloth and bone with biting effect.

As a Muslim, I strongly believe that God created us all as equals. Belonging to a faith whose foundations are built on accountability: it was the content of your heart that mattered, not the colour of your skin. So, discrimination was never a natural reaction. Instead it grew in me subtly over time, like a cobweb on a ceiling: strong yet invisible.

I craned my neck, looking for signs of our tardy bus. I half-listened to my sister, one eye keenly aware of our companion. Wisps of hot air kept time with her speech, as she animatedly recounted a recent event.

My family are Indian, and that simple fact, along with biased news reporting, might go a long way in explaining where my irrational fear of black men arose from. Despite being just one shade lighter than a black person, the Indians I know have a deep-rooted aversion to all things black. Publicly racism is scorned, yet privately Indians revere white people. They have an incomprehensible obsession with appearing whiter than they actually are. Fair women in particular, are the prized blooms of any Asian society. Personally, I think colonisation is to blame; more than half a century on from Indian independence, we still feel inferior to white people. It's no wonder then, as with all ladders of discrimination, that someone is confined to the bottom rung. In order to save their chocolate brown skin from being relegated there, Asians choose instead to continue this cycle of hate and discriminate against black people.

The N12 turned into Queen's Avenue*, and I greeted the glare of its headlights with a sigh of relief. The bus came to a screeching halt in front of us and the automatic doors swished open. My sister boarded the bus first, paid her fare and made her way to our "regular" seats towards the back. The man waited patiently a few paces behind me, so I took my cue and followed my sister onboard.

I dropped my money in the coin tray and mechanically called out my destination. I automatically held out one hand towards the ticket dispenser, but the bus driver failed to issue my ticket and I looked back at him in confusion.

"Kendell Town," I repeated.

"I haven't got change," he said unapologetically.

I stared at him incredulously. Bus drivers were notorious for keeping a paltry amount of change on board, but this was ridiculous. I stood my ground determinedly.

"Well, I haven't got change," I said truthfully, resolutely fixed to the spot. Ticket prices had already increased at 10% above the rate of inflation and for a student like myself, the cost of a short journey pinched me more than the cold. I was determined to return to the wintry walkway then pay more than my fare.

"Have you got change?" asked the bus driver.

I turned to see that the driver was talking to the man behind me. His wallet was open and he counted out his money.

"No," he said, almost to the floor, his eyes scanning a handful of coins.

But, before I knew what he was doing, he proceeded to throw down several coins, covering not only his own, but my fare as well.

The bus driver handed my money back, and I held it, my mouth open in protest. I would have given it to the man, but not only did that defeat the purpose of my initial resolution, but he had already moved to the back of the bus. I stared after him in amazement, as the bus jolted to a start.

Balancing myself with the handrails I shuffled to my seat, as my body swayed to the rhythm of the moving vehicle.

"Thank you," I said to the man, before sitting down.

He nodded nonchalantly like a duck on a lake; his face emotionless.

Living in a city where asking a stranger for the time is often met with a grunt, a long sigh and an inaudible answer, I had long given up on meeting altruistic people. But, I met kindness in the most unlikely place. That simple act rattled me, and my perception of the world.

Did it change the way I view young black men? Honestly, no. I had yearned to believe that I didn't discriminate against people based on their appearance. After all, I wear a long gown and headscarf everyday and find myself on the receiving end of the very same intolerance. My religion has always taught me that the only criterion on which we will be judged is our faith: enjoining good and forbidding evil. We should smile upon our differences, cover up each other's weaknesses and deal with justice and equality. My experience reminded me that I have yet to reach this lofty goal, but it also reaffirmed my long held view, that my fear is irrational. At the moment, I feel just as unable to rid myself of it as I am of ridding myself of the fear of the two-inch spider lurking in my hallway.

What I do know though, is that kind stranger gave me a gift that I long to remember forever. His random act of kindness humbled me in a way that I still can't fully understand or adequately explain.
*Location details have been changed.
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Readers Comments

andriadesiree wrote: :o)
Thanks for sharing....
brighteyes wrote: fantastic Aurelia, my parents brought us up to accept everyone no matter their color, religion, job ,etc...we are all equal in the eyes of God!

My dad introduced us to some of his friends so we celebrated Jewish holidays, learned how to use chopsticks and ate in Chinatown, CA with his asian friends, etc.

One reason I really enjoyed living in CA for so many years was the diversity...I like trying all new foods, learning about their holidays, traditions, etc and now have many friends of different races, religions, etc....

Now, I consider us one global family and the internet has really made this meet and talk to people from around the world and again and again to discover though we may look different, talk different, live far away, etc, BASICALLY DEEP DOWN, WE ARE ALL ALIKE AND WANTING THE SAY THINGS!
katlampi wrote: I am a lot like you. Unfortunately I have certain biases about people which were rooted in and reinforced by experiences that I have had. I regret that I lump entire groups together in the form of stereotypes; that is something I am trying desperately to get away from. I would not consider myself a racist, but when I look at people I make certain assumptions (good and bad alike) about them based on their appearance. Thank you for sharing this -- I thought I was the only person who felt this way. It is always wonderful when people disprove our stereotypes. As you said, it definitely humbles us, and often seems to come at the right time -- when you need to have faith in people. I'm curious though, why did you change the locations and details?
Lindsay R. wrote: Its a shame that most of us act on impulse rather that what is many people are hurt this way daily. I try to see people as who I would want to be seen as, but sometimes it dosent work out that way. Thank you for sharing your story, it was quite lovely.
Michael P. wrote: I have had that done to be before. It does hurt, but by now im used to it. I am a twenty four year old man who has seen hell, drugs, guns, you name it, i've seen it. My father was a drug dealer, and many people came into my home who I did not know. This story should tell those who judge before they see the truth to stop-it is degrading, and extremely hurtful.
meg wrote: This is a wonderful story. Not only because of the man's random act of kindness, but because this writer seems to acknowledge her true feelings. So many of us refuse to look deep inside of ourselves to deal with these kind of issues. I really do think that racism and prejudices today are because of television, and movies, the media in general. If we tune into and listen to our spiritual side, it will lead us to the truth.

Thanks, Meg
AURELIA wrote: I am lucky to have been brought up to treat others as I am treated. Color doesn't scare me, I am more curious to know about their lifestyle and love to learn from our differences. My eyes and heart is always open. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story and teaching us a lesson or two. ~Aurelia
Norman wrote: Help often comes from the most unlikely sources. Just confirms that regardless of our own biased opinions of some people, their are still those whose actions will always prove us wrong and hopefully give us a chance to evaluate our own perceptions. Thanks for the sharing your wonderful story.
JuneBug wrote: I REALLY enjoyed reading your story! You write so well..I felt I was there experiencing exactly what you wrote about...Thank you for sharing it with us!
Tigerlily wrote: I have a theory.... The light of world shines many colors across the face of God. May you let your light shine as well; it shines from the inside out... know then, that we are only what comes from the inside... our exterior simply does not matter. Good student you are... taught by what you misunderstood. His light was shining!

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