Comment: I complimented a racist and won

Too often no one says anything when they encounter racism on the street. (AAP) Source: AAP

Confrontation isn't the only way to tackle racist tirades on our streets and public transport. SBS World News Presenter Janice Petersen decided to try a different tactic.

I heard him before I saw him.

A man in the full throes of a racist rant directed at two women who in his eyes had the audacity to speak Mandarin in ‘his’ country.

It wasn’t so much the actual abuse but the venom in which he spat it out that prompted me to turn around to see whose face was attached to this hailstorm of hate.

Dishevelled and down on his luck, he seemed to be venting his own anger at life on two innocent people.

And me?

I couldn’t be bothered even throwing a disapproving look his way. I just wanted the pedestrian lights to change so I could get on with my day.

There was a time when you’d have to hold me back if I chanced upon or was the target of bigotry. ‘Racism stops with me’ sure but today I didn’t have the energy or inclination to engage with a ranting, raving idiot.

I also didn’t want to get punched in the face.

“When the hell are these lights turning green?” I wondered impatiently.

Then the man in the threadbare t-shirt let fly with another bout of bile.

Round two of his vile and vulgar abuse.

The two Chinese women looked terrified as they huddled closer together in silence.

It wasn’t fair.

“Stop abusing these women. Step up and be a man. A good man.”

“Hey,” I snapped as I readied myself for him to shift the cross hairs of his witless invective to me.

But before I launched into a sermon on civil decency, I hit him with a sucker punch.

“Behind all of this,” I said gesturing to his face, “I can see a gentleman."

He looked stunned.

"Start behaving like one,” I said bluntly.

“But they’re not even speaking English. You can’t just act like monkeys in the street,” declared the man who moments earlier was behaving like a juvenile ape.

I ramped up the compliments.

“You’re a good looking man,” I said matter of factly.

His face softened with embarrassment. He was no longer able to hold my gaze. He muttered a few words to show his contrition.

“Stop abusing these women. Step up and be a man. A good man.”

I continued my lecture until the lights turned green.

Then I asked one of the women who copped his initial spray if she was ok.

She looked at me shell shocked and said nothing.

Her friend smiled at me and translated my concern to her mate who gently smiled too and softly said, ”thank you.”

And the racist man?

He ended up turning on his heels and walking in the other direction.

But not before he apologised.

Twice.

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