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A moment for all the Oskar Schindlers in the world

April 7, 2009

The story in The Independent this morning about Schindler’s lost list being found in Australia gave me pause for thought.
Oskar Schindler was one of many people who were not prepared to do nothing in the face of atrocity. There were other people saving Jewish lives in World War Two and people who have acted to save others more recently, such as hotelier Paul Rusesbagaina who risked his own life during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. I wonder what they would have made of the situation in our local playground last week?

I was watching out for my four-year-old daughter who was playing in the sand pit, while a group of boisterous boys (probably sub-teens) raced around playing tag. So far, so good. The boys were a good mix of black and white and I wouldn’t mention their race at all, but for the incident that followed.

Two slightly older white boys started baiting one of the black boys – I was told by one of the other mums that some of the comments were racist – and when he stood up for himself the white boy kicked his legs out from under him and kicked him again when he was down.

As this was escalating, I was casting an eye around the playground. There were half a dozen grown men studiously ignoring the trouble, and several mums, like me, watching warily.

I was about to get up and step in – well aware that the kid on the floor would not want to be ‘saved’ by a mum – when a girl friend of the bully stepped in instead and broke it up, to much effing from the lad.

Of course, barely ten minutes went past before the bully was laying into the boy again. Again I look to the men and no one is going to do anything, so I start walking over to give the white kid a piece of mind. Much to my relief, I’ll be honest, things fizzled out before I got there. But I have to say I had little confidence that any of the grown-ups would have backed me up and was more than a little worried that I was going to get a knife in my guts for my trouble.

I wouldn’t want you thinking I’m drawing comparisons between myself and Schindler – I’m not. My point is that old truism about evil flourishing and good men doing nothing. It would have taken one man in that playground, a more confident woman than me, or two women like me to have shown that boy that his behaviour was antisocial and not to be tolerated in a children’s playground. Instead, this little yob now thinks he can get away with with racist bullying and physical aggression. And that saddens me.

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