« The Writers’ Toolkit | Main | Chapter 16: Jagged Edges »

Donkin's World: Woman On A Tram - England 2011

...I have provided the link and no doubt you will click on it as I did, but let me warn you that if you are British it will spoil your day if you have any shred of pride in what it is to be British....

Richard Donkin is saddened by the fact that loathsome vestiges of racism continue to flourish in Britain.

I had other things to do this morning before something on the internet, one of the hundreds of links and pointers that flash across our screens these days, persuaded me to look at this clip of a woman mouthing racial abuse at her fellow passengers on a tram. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i47HoiM0Au8&feature=player_embedded

I have provided the link and no doubt you will click on it as I did, but let me warn you that if you are British it will spoil your day if you have any shred of pride in what it is to be British. And if you are not British you may feel pity and sadness for what has happened to a nation that believes its national psyche is underpinned by tolerance, fairness and a sense of common decency.

It's shocking, not so much for what is said - although that is indeed shocking - but because of the circumstances of the film. A young woman is sitting on a crowded tram, somewhere in or near London I would guess. A child is sitting on her lap. Unprompted, the woman begins a loud and abusive tirade against foreigners and black people, saying they have no right to be in the UK. Fellow passengers, some of them black, some not, object, but she won't be silenced. All the while, the young boy on her lap, sits passively.

I am sure that incidents such as this, while relatively uncommon, are certainly not isolated. The woman represents a persistent vein of intolerance that continues to stain our nation and trample over the responsibilities enshrined in the right to free speech.

I, and many more like me, like to think we live today in a society that has overcome the prejudices of the past. Walking around London, the evidence would support that conclusion. Everywhere I go people seem respectful of each other and that respect, generally, is genuine. It's not a facade.

But there are places, and I wish they didn't exist, that seem unable to escape an innate tribalism, passed, as I fear will happen in this woman's case, from mother to son. I want to believe that people can change, but I doubt that there is a corrective therapy in the land that will change this woman.

She represents an unwanted strand of DNA in a society that, by and large, seeks to live in harmony. It was too bad for those other passengers on the tram. When I was young we had conductors on public transport who were there to ensure that people behaved properly. Now we rely on collective restraint and politeness. Just occasionally our restraint is challenged as it was here, but her fellow passengers behaved with a dignity this woman simply did not posses.

Perhaps she suffers from some stress-related disorder, but that wouldn't excuse the content of the outburst. Her reactions didn't strike me as unthinking but sentiments that were deeply ingrained in her upbringing. She lives with people who think and speak as she does. And from such suppurating pools of hatred, emerged the killers of Stephen Lawrence. Whatever the outcome of the Lawrence trial, it's sad to be reminded thathttp:// even today, the most loathsome vestiges of racism continue to flourish just a bus ride away.


To purchase a copies of Richard's celebrated books please click on


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.