This is the latest post in a series about a road trip to New Orleans that starts here.
Desra gave us a ride back to the Air B&B. Inside, Lynn said pensively, “If I went to dinner in London with someone who was Afro Caribbean, I don’t think the subject of race would even come up—but we spent the whole dinner tonight talking about race.”
Of course they don’t have African Americans in England. The race labels were confusing when I lived there, especially who was covered by “Asian.” In Minnesota, Asians are Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, and Thai. By far the largest group, the Hmong, are mountain tribes people from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and China—where they are called the Miao. That’s pronounced “meow.” Our newest arrivals are the Karen, an ethnic group from Burma/Myanmar.
In England, an Asian is most likely from India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh.
Lynn herself is Anglo Indian because her ancestry is English and Indian. Note that the Anglo comes first, whereas in the U.S., we say “African American” or “Muslim American.”
This labeling is all very fraught with the peril of offending one side or another.
“What if you were having dinner with a Pakistani or other Muslim?” I asked Lynn. “Would race or religion be a theme in every angle of the conversation?”
“Hmmm…maybe,” replied Lynn. “Yes, that might be it. It’s not that we don’t have prejudice in the UK. But I think it’s the Muslim population that’s getting the brunt of the suspicion and animosity, especially since September 11 and seven seven.”
July 7, 2007—the day on which 52 people were killed and 700 injured on the London transport system in an Islamist terrorist attack. I remember watching it on the news, in Spanish, from my bed in a hotel in Cusco, Peru, where I was vomiting my guts out into an ice bucket after eating some bad guinea pig. That’s a story for another post, but here’s a free tip for you: never use a hotel ice bucket for ice.
We reference so much with these simple dates: 9/11, 7/7. So much has changed. In the U.S., half the population—the conservative half—replaced its constant fear of a mass attack by communists with fear of a Muslim attack, which has made possible the rise of a demagogue like Donald Trump. The strange thing is, they don’t fear the white guy next door with 50 guns who just lost his job and his wife and is acting strangely—just “the Muslims.”
The third major terrorist attack in the west was 11-M, the train bombings in Madrid on March 11, 2004. Almost 200 people were killed and 2,000 were injured. I don’t remember where I was that day. But I do vividly recall being in Spain sometime after 9/11 but before 11-M studying Spanish. I was chatting with a British woman and somehow 9/11 came up.
“Now you lot know what we’ve been living with all these years from the IRA,” she said casually about the attack in which nearly 3,000 people died.
Back in St. Louis after a good night’s sleep, Lynn and I were preparing for our last day on the road.
“What do we do with the doughnuts?” she asked.
I carried the box out with us, thinking I would take them home to Vince. Then I spotted a kid on the porch of the house next door and approached him.
“Hey kid, want a box of doughnuts?” He was chubby and his eyes said Yes as he also backed away from me toward the door and called, “Daddy!” The father came rushing outside, looking panicked. I could just picture myself at the police station: “No officer, really! I just wanted to give him the doughnuts; I wasn’t trying to lure him into my car.”
I offered the box to the father, who looked inside to make sure they really were doughnuts (I wonder what else he suspected could be inside? Snakes?). He looked up at me with a grin, thanked me, and the two of them hurried inside, where I could hear the boy calling out excitedly, “Mom! We got doughnuts!”