It was friday afternoon on a road from a popular neighbourhood into the park. I think a mosque had just finished prayer because many traditionally dressed Moroccans were there and so was I, dressed in business style on my way to a business appointment. A white Dutch woman came along on her bike, with a dog attached to the side of her bike on a one meter leash. Usually dog owners on a bike keep their dog on a leash that they hold in their hand, to be more flexible in Amsterdam’s dense traffic.
At the entrance of the parc stood some poles on the road (see the photograph), meant to keep cars out of the parc. The woman biked into the parc on one side of the pole, her dog took the other side but the leash attached to the bike was in between. So the dog was stopped and almost thrown against the pole and the bike was also stopped abruptly, the woman almost fell, just almost: bikers in Amsterdam have incredible skills for all kinds of situations.
A Moroccan guy wanted to help her to get herself upright and the dog past the pole but she started to shout in anger. This happened to her, she said, because on the left side a young guy was walking on the biking path and on the right side there was also a couple walking. They left her no space to go and that is why she and her dog ran into the pole.
It is one of those irrational situations that can easily go out of hand. The woman had enough space and she had no damage. Her behaviour was very injust and impolite, even agressive and I couldn’t ignore the impression that she was shouting because they were Moroccans. This was the hidden white anger that people say and know is there, but you don’t see or hear it except in moments like this. Also I had the impression that the woman was waiting for a fight, scolding at random, hoping to be a victim and see her prejudices confirmed. Interesting were the doubts of the Moroccans around, I think they had the same impression: so should they take the scolding and get hurt, or defend themselves and get the blame?
The funny thing of appearances is that they can work for you. I was wearing business clothes for a completely different reason, but I could use it to have authority at that moment and solve some things. I took the attitude of a person in charge and told the woman that the men she was shouting at had nothing to do with her nearby accident – and that she had to be more aware herself of the dog stuck on a leash to the bike. That solved it, not for the woman who didn’t stop shouting out her anger but for the men who were shouted at. We continued our walk and when the woman was out of sight, we laughed about it together because it was also funny, the way she and her dog got stuck on a pole, blaming the rest of the world for it.
Still, this type of everyday situations worry me: the step to a situation that runs out of hand is all too small. White anger, directed to innocent passengers, seems to lie just below the surface in Amsterdam 2011.