I smiled at you. You turned your head and looked away.
My three-year-old daughter pointed to your probably-three-year-old son, and squealed excitedly, “Look, Mama, look! He got a teddy bear! He got a teddy bear, like me!”
You glanced at us, looked extremely awkward, then quickly pushed your trolley further down the aisle — ensuring that the smiles being exchanged between our two children, were abruptly ripped apart.
I brushed it off, telling my daughter that “the little boy and his mummy must be very busy”.
In the next aisle, there you were; another version of you. A little older probably; in a parka jacket, scarf around your neck and a smaller trolley — you know the ones, right? No child seat and ideal for those quick after-work mad-dash shopping trips.
You saw me coming. About to turn in. But you were about to turn out. There was one of those big metal racks laden with stock, ready to be stacked on the shelf next to it, blocking part of the aisle.
Again, I smiled at you — as I smile at everyone — but you were stone-faced. I stayed back, out of courtesy, to let you through first. I felt like I was the one who must give you way.
It seems you felt the same way, too.
It seems like, to you, I was just taking up space. That I was in your way when I shouldn’t have been. That I owed you the right to go through first.
So I did.
You sauntered past, barely even looking at me as I made sure I really didn’t get in your way. That my daughter’s arms weren’t in the air and that she wasn’t making too much noise. That we were in no way making your shopping experience more stressful than it needed to be.
You didn’t say thank you.
I brushed it off. Again. You’d probably just had a really stressful day and just wanted to get home, so you could eat and put your feet up for the night.
I made my way down the aisles. Picked up milk, yoghurt, potatoes and avocados, ’cause right now, I’m just really into them.
Went down the bread aisle. Got brioche for the kids. Some rice cakes for me.
Finally, it was time to pay. And you know what Aldi is like — never enough people on the tills and too many shoppers to accommodate.
I started walking past the tills, scanning for one that didn’t look too busy. I spotted it. Started pushing my now quite amply laden trolley towards it.
Then from the corner of my eye, I spotted you coming. Another version of you.
You were quite a bit older. Probably 50-ish or so. You didn’t look very happy.
You saw me — our eyes even locked for the tiniest of moments. And then you did something I didn’t quite expect.
I was just about to make it to the till I’d picked out, when you saw a tiny window of opportunity, and quickly pushed past with your basket, placing it down on the belt of that very same till, as if pushing your way in front of me was kind of a sweet little victory.
You could see me coming. You saw me making my way to that till. But for some reason, you thought you were entitled to it. So you took it. You took it, right then and there in front of everyone, forcing me to change my direction and go to the next one.
What was all that about?
I shook my head in confusion. Let out a little sigh — and an “okay, then…” might have even slipped out.
It seemed like no-one else had noticed.
But I noticed.
And I’m not gonna lie — it did hurt, just a little bit.
Because where I live, with not very many people of colour and many an English flag flying in people’s gardens, I know that I am different. That my little family and I are not wanted around here. That we are the problem, in your eyes.
I know that you’d rather not have our sort around here — you know, hard-working families who are just trying their best to make the world a better place for us all?
All you see is the colour of my skin and the religion you automatically deem me to be. A religion which you’ve been conditioned to hate.
And I strive every day to not allow anything to separate me from my fellow human beings; to not allow colour or culture or class or belief get in the way of how I treat anyone.
But when it happens to me, I can’t help but question why.
Why is it that you don’t allow yourself to open up to the world that lives outside of your Daily Mail newspapers and BBC News programmes?
Why you blindly allow yourself to believe the hate that spews from every corner of this country?
Why you allow the ones in power to divide and conquer us, when me and you have way more in common than you and them ever will?
Despite all of that; whether you continue to see me as lesser than, or you continue to feel that I am in your way, or whether you continue to hate me, just know that I do not and will never feel the same way about you.
To the white woman shopping in Aldi, I will always continue to smile at you — even if you never manage to muster a smile back.
Previously published on medium
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