The first time Mr Perera had experienced a severe form of racism was during his first year of college in 1993. He was studying in Portland and at this particular point of time racist behaviour was much more prevalent than it is today. Mr Perera had gone to a “shady” bar, as he had described, along with his college boxing team and two coaches. At the bar there was a small group of older white men who were looking at him with revulsion, quite clearly because of his race. One of the men went ahead and said to him “I am going to kick out your teeth you black b*stard!” It was at this moment exactly that Mr Perera’s eyes were opened to the biased and unjustified behaviour of those who believed that they were of a higher caliber than him because of their race.
Racism is the discrimination against someone of a different race based off of the belief that one’s race is superior. Racism is a prominent issue plaguing society and Mr Perera, a 43 year old London resident originally from Sri Lanka, is no stranger to this type of prejudice. Mr Perera’s story was one that I could truly take away a lot from. Not only did he share a look into the harsh reality of the world but also shared some useful advice when it comes to making rational decisions.
Although terrified on the inside Mr Perera tried to put on a brave front and let out a cheeky comment- “I’m black?” he exclaimed. This led to the men erupting in laughter. Even though they were laughing at him, his sense of humour was able to temporarily diffuse the tense atmosphere. Unfortunately, the situation escalated once again in a matter of seconds when the same man said “Let’s step outside” implying that he wanted to fight. Luckily, Mr Perera’s teammates came to his rescue and both their large number and daunting appearance succeeded in intimidating the group of older white men, forcing them to leave.
While Mr Perera was lucky to have escaped unscathed from the incident, he admitted to have been greatly pained by what had happened.“It hurts,” he recounted, “it genuinely hurts.” In hindsight Mr Perera believes that he was quite overconfident in his college days and didn’t realise what a dangerous turn it could have taken. Based on his personal experience, Mr Perera strongly urged us not to resort to physical retaliation. As much as you want to stand up for yourself he advised us to not do so as it could end up horribly wrong. “It’s not worth it,” he explained, and went on to tell us that money is replaceable but life isn’t. He acknowledged that he himself had been guilty of this and that he had been provoked into making rash decisions that ended up doing more harm than good. He emphasised the importance of letting go of one’s ego when it comes to such situations- you must make practical decisions.
Mr Perera reminded us that life isn’t a movie and that despite the number of victorious heroes in the movies we love, there is a dangerous precedent set about violence. “You don’t win fights,” he stated matter of factly. He drew attention to the fact that you can never be sure as to when the fight actually ends- it may come back to haunt you in a horrible way. Mr Perera shared a devastating incident that took place where in he had experienced exactly this. He had found it necessary to get involved when a boy his age was causing trouble to an older woman. In the moment it had seemed like he had ‘won’, but it was only when his father had returned home from work with broken glasses and scratches all over his fingers that he realised that there was no winning in such situations. The boy had taken out his anger on his father instead. In his closing comments, Mr Perera urged us to make smarter decisions by letting go of our overconfidence and pride, two common sources for making mistakes. Most importantly, he wanted us to never forget that our safety comes first.