Who do I know that doesn’t perk up and smile when they hear the magical word….upgrade.
We visited Rabat this morning. Its the political capitol of Morocco, currently. It took about an hour by train from Casablanca. It was a nice train. Between the bigger cities the trains are quite nice. Its the longer hauls that you need to be concerned with. We had the option of upgrading to first class cabins on the way from Rabat to Meknes where we are headed now. We will stop in Meknes, transfer to cabs and visit Moulay Idriss overnight tonight.
Mustapha purchased the tickets for the group. We were in your typical Euro train compartments. Six per compartment and two compartments for our group. Assigned seats but that is a loose assignment. Its just for validation really.
We boarded the train as a group and moved on the down the way to find our spots. We had been told, if there are people in your seats, just tell them to move, politely, and Bob’s your uncle. So we arrive, and start to clog the path with our baggage and bodies, because there were two ladies in two of our seats. A polite request was made. Nothing. Another request was made (in French) and nothing. One lady just stared out the window the entire time. Then Mustaph got involved. Lots of French was exchanged. Then the conductor came and there was a lot of darija flying around the cabin. People are annoyed with us in the hallway, with nowhere to go and nowhere to put our bags, we were clearly in the way. Mustapha became angry and finally he and I put our bags in the next cabin over and while I sat down he went back to speak with the ladies, the conductor, and another random Moroccan man who seemed to be siding with the ladies.
You see, the ladies were from sub-Saharan Africa. So they are black African. Now this is where it becomes challenging and yet familiar to so many all over the world. If those people had been Moroccan, Mustapha explained, they would have gotten up and moved immediately. They would have taken a place in the hallway if needed in order to show respect for us. Moroccans are very respectful people as we have been finding. They are a very peaceful, welcoming, calm and lovely people. These ladies were not like that. They are sub-Saharan and refused to move. They were there first. Period. Full stop. Don’t talk anymore. We were here first. No ticket needed. No further discussion. No movement. No nothing.
There is an undercurrent of racism. There is the undertone (and I do not speak angry darija so I don’t know if it was actually implied or if was more subtle) that the Moroccan man and the Moroccan conductor were being racist against the African women by telling them to move. In fact, the issue was entirely behavioural. It was a matter of respect. We have purchased tickets, for these seats, to be together as a group, and these are then our seats. Asking you to move in a respectful way is the right thing to do. Moving is the respectful response. It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with your behaviour.
Sadly, this happens all too often, in too many countries all over the world. Perhaps if we could all just show some respect, we might all get along better.