I'm reading Buchi Emecheta's novel "The Joys of Motherhood", set in Nigeria around WWII, and there's a bit where the white master addresses his 'house-boy' as 'baboon'. She writes:
"his laughter was inspired by that type of wickedness that reduces any man, white or black, intelligent or not, to a new low; lower than the basest of animals, for animals at least respected each other's feelings, each other's dignity."
I've sometimes drawn a comparison between my experience of bullying and what I imagine it must be like to be the target of racism. There are crucial differences: the people who continually, unpredictably chipped away at my soul in high school were not trying to keep a whole class of people* miserable, afraid, and aware of how unwelcome they were; and once I escaped high school, I escaped them**. There's no such merciful exit for the young hijabi, the Indigenous athlete, the Sudanese refugee - all the Australians who have to cope with harassment from the media and in the street on top of systemic racism.
That constant drip-drip-drip is what makes people sometimes suddenly explode over seemingly small insults. I don't know what it's like to live with bigotry day in and day out, but I do know what the drip-drip-drip can do to you. When I read Buchi Emecheta's words, the familiar and infinite rage rose up in me. It's there now, in my chest and arms, almost nauseating. I think she may have been feeling something like the same feeling when she condemned the people who stoop to "that type of wickedness".
* Although there was gender policing involved; I would not have been the only young woman being called a "lemon" for being insufficiently feminine.
** With the exception of the Unpleasantness here in lj, many years ago now, which forced me to deal with the damage from high school - as well as requiring me to broaden my horizons, which led directly to the discovery of Emecheta, now one of my favourite authors.