This morning, I make go to an ATM to make a transaction. The only person in the queue is a (young, black) construction worker – CW for short – standing far away (about 3 meters) from the ATM. I join the queue behind him. Shortly after, a (white) lady comes and stands about 2 meters in front of CW, not seeing the queue.
I point out to her that there’s a queue. Before I finish the sentence, CW turns to ask me to – in isiZulu – to help him with his transaction since he doesn’t know how to use the ATM. I decline and point him to the security guard. Anyway, the lady kindly apologises and lets CW go ahead, but still stands in front of me (she’s standing between us now).
Now here’s the thing: A few seconds later, the lady exits the queue and walks into the branch.
First things first, the lady’s actions or character aren’t up for debate. She may have simply decided she doesn’t wanna stand in a queue, and even if she felt unsafe, she was well within her right to take herself out of a situation she thought to be potentially risky. I would too if I felt in danger.
What I am debating though is – if she did feel at risk – what made her feel unsafe? Was it race? Language? Past experience? Or am I being paranoid in thinking that this was a case of ‘the black man is always a suspect’?
Share your thoughts – I’d love to hear them.