I’ve had something on my mind for a few months now. During the exam period for Block 1a I was heading into the library to study stats, not that it did me much good, but that’s what repeats are for, right? What’s really stuck with me from that day was what happened as I walked across to the library after parking my bike outside the academie building.
As I crossed, there was a loud crash. I looked up to see a young Dutch student in a suit and red tie pulling himself up off the ground from underneath a green bike. The crash came from an unsecured beer crate flying off the back and smashing into the pavement. I hurried over and he was already standing when I reached him.
He was clearly very drunk, so he needed a second to switch to English. I checked that he was alright and put the rusty chain back on his bike. I advised him to push his bike and carry the remains of his crate. It took a few attempts to get through, but eventually he got the message. Then as I walked away, he said “thanks buddy you’ve completely changed my opinion about international students”.
The crash came from an unsecured beer crate flying off the back and smashing into the pavement
It seemed nice at first but that comment stuck and it’s raised some questions for me. What exactly was his opinion about international students before I helped him? How easily is he swayed to judge huge groups of people simply on the actions of one individual? Is this attitude common among Dutch students?
Understandably, when I tell my friends this it quickly becomes a conversation about racism and maybe they’re right to call it that. But as a white Irishman who has lived in Ireland most of my life, this really isn’t anything I have much personal experience with. Sure, some people have been racist to friends and I’ve dealt with someone close to me being racist before too. But I’ve never been on the receiving end.
Maybe I’m taking this all a little too seriously… maybe he just misspoke? It’s easily done and after all, there was a strong scent of beer smell off the lad. The whole scene smelled like a pub back home in Ireland roughly five minutes before everyone erupts into songs about alcohol and/or freeing Ireland from the British Empire and I wouldn’t call that racist. So maybe I just took him up wrong…
But what if I didn’t…