Tuesday’s Journal Editorial read: Sustained efforts needed to thwart racist behaviour.
It was a well-timed article for me. I had been thinking for some time about the visit from Jesse Lipscombe and the #Makeitawkward campaign. He had urged us to be allies, to speak out when we saw it happening.
I had my first chance the day before.
I get my haircut in a local barbershop owned by Fadhi, a Muslim man. He’s a very nice guy. He now has two shops so I don’t see him as much anymore, but he employs a couple of other barbers from his community.
Yesterday I went in. The young woman was free; another client was just sitting down in the young man’s chair. As I took my seat in the woman’s chair I heard the other barber asking the man how short he wanted it. There was mumbling then suddenly the man stood up, whipped off his cloak, ran a comb through his uncut hair and stormed out.
“I just asked him how short he wanted it,” said the young man, somewhat perplexed.
“Oh, that guy!” said my cutter. “He was in a while ago, saw me and said, ‘I’m not going to have a woman cut my hair!’ He didn’t need to be so rude about it. Fadhi knows about him but says we need to be more generous than he is.”
“Because he doesn’t like women cutting his hair?” I asked.
“Yes, but also because he does not like our religion. I wonder why he even comes here.”
Time to be an ally…
“Maybe because some people who don’t have power in their lives like to go pick fights so they can feel powerful.”
“I hadn’t thought of that. But still it’s sad.”
“Yes, but please don’t let the few noisy haters overshadow the majority of us who welcome refugees, who know Islam is a religion of peace, and who believe this country is a place of diversity. I’m happy to have you cut my hair.”
“You’re right…but should we have yelled at him?”
“I don’t think so. Your behaviour showed me that you are better than him. You will never change his mind. To me ours is the far more important conversation, the one where allies help each other understand better and act better.”
It was a very small and completely unheroic exchange, but she was grateful and I felt good about saying a word. No one took any risks or faced any danger and no one escalated the situation. But in the end, three of the four people involved felt a little better about the man’s rudeness.
May we all find a kind word when the time is right. See you in church.