So that Soweto Kinch jazzer who claimed on Newsnight recently that he had been the victim of racism on the train to the ITV studio has given his account of what happened on Facebook. His story, although rather confusing, sounds real, but it all seems like the usual terrible service that you get on trains, which I experience quite often when I travel on one, espeically at big stations. And I’m not black.
His assumption that all this was racism sounds like … his assumption. He’s a guy who sees racism everywhere, he’s from the snowflake generation, so it’s no wonder that every little thing that doesn’t go right for him gets put down to racism. Despite the fact that he got into Oxford to do history, he got a recording contract, has loads of tours organised for him, he’s an acclaimed musician, he gets to go on Newsnight for some self-promotion, despite all that he’s discriminated against, yet apparently I’m the one with white privilege, despite being broke, with no publisher wanting to go near my book, so everything is a struggle. (When I used to gig the band and I had to carry massive great loads of heavy gear ourselves, often up staircases, and we were all white.) So there’s just as much evidence that I suffer from racism against whites as that he suffers from racism against blacks.
Nevertheless, he should complain to the train company’s management. Racism or not, he was badly treated. This is often par for the course on British trains, and it needs to change. The staff can be unhelpful and surly, and treat you like a criminal, and as he says, he paid £170 for the first-class ticket (enough to get you a plane to Europe), yet he was hardly given first-class treatment. (Though possibly there is another side to this story.)
(There’s also some mobile phone footage at the bottom of the post – I found the video only worked on Internet Explorer on my computer – but it proves nothing, except that Soweto Kinch likes to name-drop.)
Here’s what happened…
I ran to make the 4.30 train, and made it to the platform with only seconds to spare. I pegged it with two saxophones, a heavy suitcase and a rucksack past four carriages to the first available first class carriage. I had a 1st class ticket.
With barely a minute before departure, a train ‘manager’ intercepted me said, ‘I can’t guarantee you a seat’
I looked and saw at least 4 empty seats and thought that sounded strange. Obviously tired from running, and having put down my saxophones, I wondered why he was being so pedantic. I asked for help with my bag… which he promptly declined. He said I had to get off, and board the adjacent train. As soon as I boarded the next carriage I saw it was a fully crowded standard carriage, and I’d have to now stand.
Annoyed at being made to stand, when I could have sat for at least 10 minutes (between New St and Birmingham International) I shouted for his name, and he didn’t give it.
It’s of course hard to ‘prove’ racism. without footage. But his attitude was curt, to say the least. He told me ‘calm down’ at the same time as hurry up and ‘get off the train’ …
At no point did he say ‘there’s a first class carriage at the end of the train’ or even more helpfully, ‘Do I need a hand?’ Or you can leave your suitcase here and come back for it.’ ..I digress
Nobody ever says ‘I’m not letting you put your bags down and sit for 10 minutes because your a black geezer and I resent your negrosity.’ It’s an unspoken animus that you can see your fellow white passengers aren’t being subjected to
I get off the train after 10 minutes and still haven’t been told there’s a first class carriage at the front. The same member of staff is now physically blocking me from getting on the train in 1st class. At this point I start recording.
You can see in the clip. There are clearly free seats… I’m audibly fuming that I might be missing the important ITV interview later, because he won’t let me on the train. Then he says…
‘There’s a first class carriage at the front of the train’
Believe me his tone was a lot more polite once I started filming!
So now I had to run to board the train, as the whistles blowing… with the 4 bags, in standard class. Leave my bags behind, walk to 1st class at the other end of the Train… which was actually FULLY BOOKED!! The were more empty seats in the other 1st class carriage than the one I had left 🤦🏾♂️
To cut a long and frankly boring story short, I spent 20 minutes, either standing or moving between seats. Before eventually sitting down in first class with all my bags in tow. For the princely sum of £170, I don’t think it qualifies as a 1st class service.
I will be making a formal complaint to Avanti. There was actually no need for the train manager to be as rude to me as he was. One practical reason I haven’t followed up with the authorities… was… rushing to get to the TV studio, for PESTON and then rushing to the airport for an early flight. It literally happened hours before the interview.
Here’s where it gets more interesting…
I spoke to train staff afterwards. The two Asian staff said, ‘that guy’s can be a bit funny’ the white woman said ‘In 18 years of working with him, I’ve never known him to be racist’. They all AGREED he didn’t have to handle a seating arrangement so aggressively. Maybe there’s a pithy proverbial lesson here.
Of course, they say ‘he was probably just stressed’ and ‘You’re just reading race into it’, among other #racistproverbs
I would ask, can I get onto train without being harangued?
Look guys.. it’s not my job to prove to white people whether they’re racist or not. At no point in our ugly interaction did the train manager say ‘black’ neither did I say ‘racism.’
I’ve had this with Pizza, National Express, Easy Jet…This sort of thing happens more or less every day. Micro aggressions have been becoming macro aggressions for a while now.
Update: Fawning article on Kinch’s Newsnight appearance here.