Racism in the City

I decided to something a bit different today. I went to a pub around 8pm to read a book. It would be good, I thought, to explore some of Manchester’s other places around the Northern Quarter.

Now this was a local pub and it seemed to have a reputation. This was an unspoken reputation, I’ve been past it a few times and others like it in central Manchester. It had the vibe of a traditional working mens social bar with only people of a certain character and race in attendance. I had been to a social club in Birmingham before and apart from being a bit bare on the furniture and fittings (as well as atmosphere) it was a well stocked bar, warm and inviting.

This particular bar had a few more animated customers. I walked past it previously and earmarked as a place to visit later on. This evening was the time.

The moment I walked the atmosphere was going to be quickly assessed and evaluated. I didn’t have time to do that. An elderly man was stumbling towards the door with another trying to prop him up, clearly drunk but his words or in particular one word was unmistakable, “Oh the Paki has come to visit.”

I slowed down as I approached the bar. I had not heard that word being used in that context for many years, those years being the aftermath of the world trade centre attacks.

I shrugged it off, he was an old drunk man who had probably spent too much isolated from the rest of Manchester. I noticed something else as I ordered my drink, while the bartender was a bit abrupt, which I figure is the norm for these working men type pubs, out of the corner of my eye two men were standing at the end of the bar. One was shaking his head, was it because of what the old man had said? It was discernible enough that the whole bar had heard it.

My question was answered by two things. I turned to look at him, maybe for some sympathy for what the old man blurted out in his drunken state but then I came to realise he was shaking his head at me. It felt as if it was because I was here in his pub. Now I have to say I am good reader of body language and the micro gestures that humans display. I’m am sure of what his intention was. The second act hit the point home. While I was waiting for my pint to be poured, of which there was only 2 barrels on tap (I thought was strange), the shaking head man turned to his friend.

“Shall we leave?”

His friend tried to console him. I couldn’t hear the response but the actions of his friend seemed to be calm him down and convinced him to stay.

I paid for my pint and sat down. I was determined to finish it at a leisurely pace and enjoy my book.

Various events happened during those 40 minutes afterwards. I’m not sure if they warranted anymore scrutiny but I will list them for brevity.

One was some of my rowdy neighbours ended up having a conversation about religion, specifically Christianity. This led to loud music being played by either the bar staff or other patrons, not sure which. There goes my quiet reading. At one point that stood out was when the bartender came around and collected the glasses and made a comment saying that “all religions are bad and cause wars”, “they should just be get rid off”.

Next was the two men at the end of the bar were eventually joined by two women, which I assume where their spouses. Which then leads me back to enforcing a previous point. The head shaking man actually wanted to leave because I came in? As it now seemed they were going to meet these women here anyway.

I called this post Racism in the city I’m not sure if that is too strong a word for what I experienced that evening. In this case one word was said and some discriminating looks were cast. Is that enough to address what could still be an underlying race issue in Manchester?

I know I am surprised but only because it happened in a place that was a public house and it was right in the heart of the city where I expected everyone to be fully accepting and progressive.