Another horrible train journey, in the early afternoon. A large white man standing in the middle of the carriage, who looked in his late twenties but maybe early thirties, yelling at the top of his voice about people being scum and how he wanted to bash them. He was ostensibly having a phone conversation about these topics, but was clearly intending to threaten and intimidate people in the carriage, since few people talk phone chats consisting of the repeated words”Scum! Scum! Scum!” interspersed with the occasional “I want to bash the fuck out of you!” and that sort of thing.
I wasn’t sure who in the carriage he was specifically trying to address. There were a couple of early twenties white girls sitting separately, very obviously not looking his way and acting as if nothing was happening, who I assumed were not being addressed, though at first rampant misogyny seemed in the running, with long odds. There was an early twenties Indian guy by himself and doing the same “just sitting here minding my own business” thing. And there was a small group of teenage girls in hijabs, brown people marked as Muslims.
I didn’t want to take any action which might push this guy into violence, but I took a punt based on a general sense of the statistics of these things and moved near to the Indian guy, Danny, on the basis that in some way an actual physical attack might be less likely if we were together, maybe if he saw that Danny was in conversation with an actual white citizen.
Some of the girls in hijabs got off at Coburg. He screamed abuse and threats at them through the door and continued doing so as the train pulled out. He was calling them “towelheads”. I’m not an expert, but even in the world of racialising abuse is that a precise use of the term?
It turned out there was someone on the other end of the phone, however, or at least it seemed like it because the guy agreed to get off the train and head back toward the city to meet whoever it was. Which meant that he got off at my stop, which was also Danny’s stop. The rest of the girls in hijabs stayed on, and he screamed threats and abuse at them as the train pulled away. I walked Danny off the platform and out of the station and we had one of those conversation in which we agree that the guy is a scary fucktard and then go our different ways.
I left the guy standing on the platform. Given the station, odds are good that non-white people would have arrived to get a train, and that others would be on whatever carriage he entered. It is hard to feel good about that.
This is not my first horrible incident on the Upfield line.
A few months ago I was waiting for a train at the Brunswick Station, and the only other people, this late teen boy and girl, both white, started talking to me, him especially because she kept drifting off. They were both fairly smashed, drunk and stoned and pinned it seemed. He was friendly and very chatty, and nothing offensive came out of his mouth. When the train arrived we all got on and sat separately, but then he recognised someone else in the carriage. He walked up to the guy, also a late teen boy, and they started a “where did we meet?” conversation, a question resolved when they both realised that they had met each other when they “were bashing that Indian guy”. There was brief reminiscing about that incident and then they said they should keep in touch. The guy I’d talked to at the station walked up me to and asked if I had a pen. I told him that I didn’t.
I was taking a stand against coordinated racial violence, you see: I had a pen the whole time.