You know those moments when you say something totally racist, when your intention is anything but, so says every racist. However, (see what I did there?)
Just like when people say “I don’t mean to be racist, but” and they say something totally racist. Standing outside my apartment complex the day my friend delivered my new couch.
Background about Frank, more Italian than I am. His parents were both older when they came to Australia in a different generation to me. Frank is the same age as me, however married with two fully grown children, whom I met when I worked for him about fifteen years ago and his kids were only little.
Frank arrives with the couch on the back of his van. At the same time, there is a van parked behind his with a woman sitting in the front passenger seat with the door open. Two men and another woman came down carrying things to put in the back of their van. Now, I had noticed their van parked there earlier in the day and some banter between the two men, shoulder slaps and verbal ribbing (teasing).
Did I mention, they were black? I don’t mean that in a racist way. There are plenty of Indian, Asian and African people in this area. However, I mean really black. I should point out now, over twenty years ago my sisters high school friend married a gentleman from Nigeria and so came the term “He’s as black as snow” and he has the most softly spoken voice. They have and assortment of chocolate coloured kids, however these four people were really black.
Frank was there and down the street came his friend to help. Frank and his friend started ribbing each other straight away. I asked how they knew each other, to which Frank quickly replied “Prison”. I’ve known Frank about twenty years now and he has definitely not been to prison.
Unbeknownst to Frank, I caught the eye of the woman sitting in the front seat of the van, at the mention of “Prison” her face showed surprise, shock and concern. I would like to say she paled somewhat, but that’s not true. I caught her eye and shook my head in the negative.
Frank and his friend were continuing their joke with who had the top bunk (while in prison). Anyway, when the two guys started bringing things (couch/fridge) down the steps Frank stepped forward to help because that’s what wogs do (they help) they don’t wait to be asked, they don’t offer, they just step up and help.
Every time Frank stepped up to help and also to help avert disaster, I gave him a little cheek too “You just can’t help yourself, can you?” Frank and I started to racially profile the people moving out, in a non-racist way.
We were guessing what part of Africa they were from (Eretria) and we figured they had been in Australia for less than five years, however the way they communicated with each other and the banter and cheek between the two men meant they were likely, brothers-in-laws or siblings and Frank and I considered where his parents had been like when they arrived here.
I had spoken to the supervisor in the front passenger seat and we agreed you only encounter people when you are moving in or out of the apartment. They had been here three years and it’s the only time I’d seen them. Now they are gone, which is sad because they seemed nice people.
And well, my friends seemed alright despite one (Frank) having been to Prison.
P.S. Prison, apparently a common term for going to church. Too funny.