A pair of Czech men handled my dreads on the tram today.
This has never happened to me before.
Well, I’ve never had something like a black person’s hair before.
Thumbs-up and smiles made it confusing. Nobody ever told me about that aspect of it. (So… you’re handling my person… but I feel I conflicted about my right to anger, because you’re being so friendly…)
And then there’s the seemingly constant microaggressions from Czechs for being an immigrant.
Like the woman in the post office on Thursday who refused to give me my parcel. She just yelled at me in Czech for ages, refused to get her manager who I could see and have spoken to previously, and then just kept saying ‘no’ and waved her hands to shoo me away like a dog. And then, eventually, of course, she went and got my parcel.
It was behind her.
And the shop assistants who all seem to want to spit in my face. I didn’t know buying something in a shop was such a crime.
And whoever it was in my building who locked the door to the back yard, where I put my special mountain bike with the brand new brakes, which I have never left outside, where it has now stayed uncovered for the last two weeks of rain and hailstorms.
And the management company of my building who, when I called to try to get the key to the back yard, and asked politely, in Czech, if they spoke English, just put the phone down.
And whoever necessitated the new brakes by stealing the old ones.
And the university admin who on my very first day announced to a hall full of Czechs that I was only there “to get out of paying fees in my own country”.
No, it’s #notallczechs. It’s about me as a foreigner, not about you as a Czech. Wait, what?
Everyone is native somewhere.
Maybe the reason the British are so fucking down on immigrants at the moment is because the British hardly ever leave Britain. Shoe’s on the other foot now isn’t it, fuckers? Unfortunately I am one of the ones who believe free international migration is unequivocally socially and culturally beneficial. Ain’t that always the way.
In contrast the Vietnamese diaspora here has been very kind. Hmm, I wonder why (!)
The flipside to this is that the Czechs who do speak English have an interesting tendency to be defensive. Not when asking directions or anything, but in conversations particularly about language, words, literature, nationhood, or similar issues, they seem to be expecting me to look down on them so they treat me defensively. It’s incredibly stressful and upsetting. I could resolve to talk only about music or the weather, or something, but I’m fucking studying English Literature.
I have two things to say:
1: my anxiety levels are currently barely controllable, most days. I feel like my soul is pacing behind a mosquito screen. I hardly leave the house. I don’t ask for directions anymore; I don’t want to risk being sent in the opposite direction.
People I meet personally tend to be very nice. But many of the people who I come into contact with on a daily basis, as I do the things I need to do – well, they all seem to hate me.
I have never experienced this before and it takes a much bigger toll on one’s sense of self than I could have predicted.
2: I guess this could be my real education. I came to learn for a masters; I’m not terribly into the masters. I didn’t come to learn what it’s like to be relentlessly othered; I’m definitely not into being relentlessly othered.
If it doesn’t result in a nervous breakdown I fail to recover from, I’ll chalk it up as a learning experience. Despite mixed attitudes, this is a wonderful, beautiful country. Why spoil it, guys? Really?
Sorry to everyone who has to deal with this shit permanently. Sorry to all immigrants to the UK, and sorry to all the people of colour.