Walking down the railway footpath in the pitch dark at 6:30am this week on the way to Wimbledon Station for the daily commute, a large black man in dredlocks appeared from the shadows and announced that he was not going to rob me. Upon my responding that I had no notion of my being about to be robbed by him he said that in his experience most white English people who see him a large black man from the Caribbean in dredlocks shy away in the belief that they are about to be mugged.
He said he experienced this quite often as he was married to a white English girl.he added that he and his wife worked in the medical profession and that he was on his way home (pointing at the nearby key worker flats). In the Caribbean apparently he was not regarded with suspicion and being a medical man gave him a status there too.. He then began to say that that the trouble with English people is that.but before he could finish I then completed the sentence for him by saying " ...the trouble with English people is that we can be so boring." He laughed at that and held out his hand at which point after chuckling and shaking hands we both went on our separate ways.
As it happens I spent much of that day at a small gathering at Heythrop College (part of London University) where one of the talks was about the need for making time for reflection both personally and more generally say at schools. Reflecting on the exchanges about Carribean culture and British prejudice/dullness I felt that on the one hand anyone coming out of the shadows before dawn in the dark might be felt by anyone else as being of hostile intent irrespective of culture or colour so possibly the dredlocked man was not the full shilling anyway. On the other hand he and others like him in a country like England might well be on the receiving end of unintended prejudice simply through appearances in much the same way that a gathering of 15 teenagers together irrespective of their ethnic origins can cause some adults unfamiliar with children to become wary. Also I surmised that life in the Caribbean is rather more colourful gregarious and generally extrovert than is often the case in the UK. The grey dull dampness of a winter's day here is apt to reflected in our everyday demeanour in the absence of conscious work to the contrary