Wednesday, July 18, 2007

1000 memories: race in Maastricht

In 2002, I went back to Belgium, on a nostalgia trip. I wanted to map the dream morphosis of Liege I had cultivated back onto the physical grid of the city itself – the city I had known ten years before. After a few days of this therapeutic exercise, strolling down and up cobbled streets, searching for places that were no longer there, staring at the space that was, drugged in loss, I took myself off to Maastricht on the train. I met up with a Trini friend of ours, L__. I wanted to buy some crockery from a fabulous shop in town as well as just be in Holland.

First we met up in the centre. The day was cold and wet and full of November. We entered a café – all smoke and cheese plants and fresh-faced Dutch. L__ stood behind me as I asked the proprietor if there was space for two. He shook his head. Behind his shoulder, I spied an empty table. I shrugged my shoulders and we turned to leave. Whatever.

As we closed the door, another late middle-aged couple entered. Looking through the smoked glass door, I could see the proprietor ushering them to the empty seats.

Something inside me snapped like a bad hamstring – a synaptic transfer van-der-graffed into bodily impulse. I barged back inside the café and demanded to know why we had been refused a seat and yet the couple were not. The proprietor had a shocked look on his face as I bawled at him – alarm spread across his moustache and his eyebrows raised in surrender. ‘You fucking racist bastard. What kind of shit is that?’ On and on I ranted. The room froze into silence around my words. L__ stood in the doorway, looking on, her face a portrait of saddened indignance. As soon as I felt my anger lowering, I turned and we left and went back to her apartment. She kept me company with tea and her razor-sharp wit and social commentary for the rest of the afternoon. Her giant cheese plant looked on with a droopy smile.

I found out from Bibi later that L__ had been secretly happy that I had made a scene like this. So many white people would just quietly go on their way in a situation like this, their liberal meekness amounting to nothing more than passive complicity. I’m no hero. There’s little special about me in the grand scheme of things. It’s just that the struggle against injustice burns in my soul, as it does in so many others. If a scene needs to be made, I will be there to make it.


A lonely girl's imaginations 12:58 pm  

I imagine what d scene wld av been like. I actually feel racism should be stopped. I wonder why people still discriminate. Jeremy, dats a nice thing u did to the proprietor.

Overwoman 1:58 pm  

My kind of Guy:)

We often nourish way too may sins by birthing and feeding apathy.

Anonymous,  2:26 pm  


Lolita 3:09 pm  

are you sure the other couple did not have a reservation?

Your Voltron, defender of the universe, I would say, though valiant, was not necessary; I would not have wanted to spend my money at an establishment that promotes racism any damn way.

Better off standing in front of the café like Kramer screaming "no bagel, no bagel, no bagel," and driving away would be customers.

Jeremy 3:11 pm  

Hey anonymous. I find the idea of being patted on the back for such actions is revolting. Its just doing what anyone should do. My friend's secret pleasure was a surprise to me, because I thought she might have been embarrassed more than anything else.

Meanwhile, what's with the 419 caps lock typographic flourish?

Yellow Sisi,  4:02 pm do you want a cookie? I usually read your blog and quite honestly i have now become bored of this belief u seem to have that you are the 'personal saviour/best friend' to the black man. Oh so wise in your knowledge of all things African or more specifically Nigerian! To be quite frank it's not a big deal, get over it and stop writing about you being WHITE and speaking broken english, yoruba, poor Ibo, pidgin hausa and the like...get over yourself! Apart from that the blog is quite interesting... uphold the colour/nationality free writing and i'll be back to peruse.

Christian Writer 4:53 pm  

"quite honestly i have now become bored of this belief u seem to have that you are the 'personal saviour/best friend' to the black man"

I must step in. At no point in his blogs has Jeremy ever presented himself thus. Neither has he ever presented himself to be 'so wise in [his] knowledge of all things African or more specifically Nigerian'. He lives in Nigeria. He observes and writes about his experiences. Finish. So he 'speaks' pigdin and anorexic Yoruba. So bloody what. Be honest. You're pissed because he's white.

I know Jeremy and he is not a 'personal saviour/best friend' to the black man' and he has never presented himself that way.

And for those that don't know, Jeremy has a Yoruba name; Oluwajeremy or even better, Adejeremy.

Dami 5:22 pm  

good on ya!
a bit disappointed you didnt add a four punch amir khan combo-two to the head and two to the lower body -then run!

Anonymous,  6:29 pm  

OK. (the all caps were unintentiontal in former comment, didnt meant to shout- computer on 'caps lock', couldnt be arsed to unlock. And again, you've out-naija'd me..i had no idea (but thanks to you i do now,) that it was a 419 stylistic flourish to capitalize..just laziness on my part. what i meant about the pat on the back, was the fact that you SHARED (maybe i should italicize instead?) the story at all... altho', i guess this IS your blog, and you can do whatever you want. But seriously,and i am SO not trying to piss you off, this particular shared memory smacks abit (ok, alot) of 'what a great guy i am'. You are, and it WAS/is a great thing that you did/do, but somehow it just comes off a bit better when someone else says it. Am probably being a bit unfair, but had L___ told the story of what happened on a lazy sunday in amsterdam, i would probably thought, "Wow, what a cool guy".

oguro,  8:28 pm  

... bloody lowlanders ....
... wish we all had the same feeling about injustice, exclusion, blatant corruption ... well done adejeremy .... don't mind dat yeye person; anonymous.... fear no let am use im name .... yeye ... show ya face mr no name!!!

Nigerian Woman in Norway 9:02 pm  

proud of you. not many people would speak out. black or white. most black people would leave - silently burning in anger, but talk about the situationa afterwards when trading stories about racism.

but how many of us make a scene - like rosa parks did?

Akin 10:08 pm  

their liberal meekness amounting to nothing more than passive complicity

This just about sums it up and I have observed it some many times - just last week, someone got on the tram with his MP3 phone blaring out at full volume.

I got up and asked him to put on his headphones, he ignored me and no one said anything.

When he got off, everyone then said, it was a nice thing to tell him off.

But, if they were also irritated by the man, why did we not all combine voices and shut out the nuisance?

This is what irks me most about - Oh so liberal Holland.

Afolabi 11:31 pm  

hmmn didn't know that white pple were discriminated against, serves them right.......ok "i joke". Good thing you stood up for what you believe in.

Jeremy 11:59 pm  

anonymous - the point about posting this memory is not about self-congratulation - although of course I can see that it can easily be seen that way. I'm sure you can see from the rest of my writing on this blog that its not my style. The text is simply taken from an ongoing book project - 1000 memories.

The question remains though: how many people are prepared to make a scene where they see injustice? Isn't it precisely because there are too few white people who are prepared to intervene that racism is allowed to propagate?

A fellow Wolgarston High,  1:22 am  

But jeremy you were always making a scene about this kind of stuff even back in school. Were'nt you a member of CND in School? I am not at all surprised that you did what you did and you ended up a vegan. You were always weird and leftist in school and you never cared what people thought about you.

I was just googling old people from school and I was directed to this site and your wedding site (your wife is beautiful by the way). You have done well for yourself and I guess we all always knew you would - with your cockiness and opinionatedness.

But looking back now, I wish I could be half the man that you were as a boy. And now reading this your post, I think of all the times I have kept quiet in the face of injustice. And you, you always did stood up for things even if you were going to get beaten up

I feel proud to know something good came out of Wolgarston High. I will now go and spend some time on the rest of your blog.

Jeremy 1:26 am  

aw shucks - thanks for the kind reminiscence from a million years ago. I guess I haven't changed much from back then. Who are you?

On the keeping quiet about injustice thing: its never too late to start!

MsMak,  1:46 am  

At Yellow Sisi and "Anonymous": na wa o, i don't understand at all. A man starts a blog, writes about his many experiences in the land in which he now lives, his past experiences and how they may have shaped his present, and he is accused of presenting himself as "personal savior".

So pray tell, if Mandela or Clinton or you perhaps, decides to write their/your memoirs and happpen to recall some things that others would consider selfless or heroic or whatever, does that then mean that they/you want to be considered "personal saviors"?

Naija pple sef! Will stay silenet at the many buffoons and thieves in power, stealing and killing their fellow country men everyday, but want to come and attack one fellow worker bee just because he's oyibo. Abegi...

By the way, i don't necessarily agree with all Jeremy writes, but i am impressed at the amount of time and effort he puts into this, i've learned quite a bit through him, and i respect the fact that he is not originally from our Land yet has taken more of an interest and joy than most ex-pats, re-pats and fellow Naijas that i know in our culture and language and geography.

kemi,  8:36 pm  

To msmak:
Well said.

Jeremy has his faults, but it is obvious most of the haters (or idiots as I prefer to call them) have an issue with the very fact that he exists and writes better than they could ever dream and gets more traffic on his blog.

About This Blog

  © Blogger templates Psi by 2008

Back to TOP