At my Working in Indigenous Australian Contexts lecture this morning, I heard a story which reminded me of one of my own stories which I hadn’t thought about since it happened a few months ago. I thought I’d share it here because (I feel) it’s quite a lovely story, and one I should record somewhere so it doesn’t slip into the oblivion of memory.
On my way to work one morning I was sitting on the train at Perth station, waiting for it to depart to West Leederville. A woman rushed into the carriage and sat down across from me on the nearest available seat. Her face was red, her hair in a wild mess and she was shaking. My first thought was that she was experiencing drug withdrawals. My second was that she was experiencing a psychotic episode. Sadly it was my third thought that considered maybe something had happened to her. Regardless, it wasn’t my business to ask. At least, it wasn’t until she started yelling at my neighbour and I. At first I was bewildered- was she mistaken? I didn’t recall ever meeting her previously. She was swearing, saying things like I was ruining her life, and that my people should go back to our own country… Ah, it clicked. She was racist.
Amidst all this commotion a man got on the train and sat down next to her. His body language and familiarity in addressing her indicated he knew her well, though he might have been a stranger. He asked her what happened, and through the tears and tremors she revealed that she had been assaulted by a young Asian man in a convenience store. From her discription of the events, she was trying to buy a magazine or some such and he rebuffed her, coming around (or over) the counter and spinning 360 degrees in the air to land a kick to the side of the head. She spit at him in hurt, and he threw her to the ground and tossed her bags onto the road. Humiliated and in pain, she grabbed her belongings and ran.
West Leederville was approaching. I knew I could walk away and no harm would be done to either of us, but my heart went out to her, and I wanted her to know it. As the train pulled into the station, I got up from my seat and got down on one knee in front of her and said “I’m really sorry that happened to you.” In a flurry of words, she apologised about yelling at me and made it clear she knew we weren’t all the same, she was just upset. She shook my hand and I smiled at her, and I went to work a little flustered, but quite pleased. It was a scary thing to do, but I’m very glad I did it, for what little difference it made. The other Asian on the train she yelled at just sat there looking away as she told her story, and I’m grateful I didn’t take the same path he did.
And also, I’m just a little bit impressed that an anonymous Asian ninja could jumping-reverse-turning kick someone in the side of the head in live combat. Not that it justifies what he did, but there’s a lot of pressure trying a high-risk flashy attack like that, and I’m surprised he pulled it off. Still a horrible, horrible person.