On my way back from an exhilarating long walk with my four and two legged friends this morning I popped in to a well-known supermarket to purchase a number of food items I needed for the week ahead.
When I arrived at the check-out I met an old school friend who I have bumped into several times over the years. We had an affectionate brief catch up as my shopping went through the till then I paid. As I did I realised that I had a store £5 discount voucher which expired today….. but it was too late the checkout process had been completed and there was no going back the voucher was now of no value to me.
“Never mind” I thought my own fault for being pleasantly distracted, I will let someone else benefit from the voucher and turned to the gentleman behind me and offered it to him. To my shock and somewhat horror my offer was decidedly rejected with a barrage of rather colourful verbal abuse rounded off with him saying he don’t need my money. He didn’t seem to connect that I was offering him a store voucher that was going to expire today. He expressed that he was outraged that someone he thought to be of a certain ethnicity had the audacity to speak to him let alone offer him a voucher.
I asked his forgiveness and explained that it had not been my intent to offend him merely to extend the use of a store discount voucher to him as I had left it too late to benefit from it.
The surrounding tills stopped as a stunned cashier kindly apologised to me and couple of assistants rally to my assistance making sure I was alright whilst the gentleman continued to shout making it clear he did not approve of certain ethnicities which he believed I was from.
It makes no difference what mine or his ethnicity actually are. What mattered was his perception that I was not the same ethnicity as he was and as such he believed I had no right to communicate with him. He believed that we were different and he was of a higher order and should not be approached by the likes of myself.
Those who know me will be shocked that I simply walked away and didn’t say anything else. As I did I felt ashamed of my initial thoughts were to rebuff his allegations and authenticate my upbringing. But I reframed and walked away.
The experience drew to me to reflect on the similarity with how our multi-cultural society is driven today more than ever to label those who are vulnerable amongst us. Making assumptions about who and what they are, perceiving them to be of a lesser position and status in society than others and taking away any weight to their voice.
The reality being that these assumptions are created by simply refelcting one’s own discerning awareness, insight, discrimination, sensitivity and judgement.
As I walked away I wondered what the gentleman would have thought if I had pointed out to him actually were of the same ethnicity…..