I was on a call getting advice; I had paid someone for this service. “Don’t buy a house in Duisburg,” she said. I made a noise of agreement, thinking: industrial, gray, boring to drive through.
“There are Romanian men sitting in front of cafés drinking coffee,” she said, “and their women are pushing fat strollers down the street. You don’t dare leave your house after dark.”
I said nothing. I changed the subject.
I should not have said nothing. I should have been brave enough to call her out and hang up. What were the stakes? I knew in that moment that I wouldn’t hire this person again, so I had no need to preserve a relationship in any form. If I were picking my battles, they don’t come much easier than this. Yet I froze.
Afterwards, I thought: What would it bring if I’d said something? Would I change her viewpoint? Would she be just a tiny bit less xenophobic afterwards? She would not be. She might learn to hide it better. And if I posted a review on the website where I had found her listing, she would know that I was a coward in the moment. She might write me an angry email or even worse, call me to yell at me. Right then, that was terrifying. Now, months later, I wonder why I was the one afraid of being scolded.
So I posted it, and at least I said “That’s not OK.” in the end. Now others can choose not to use her services if they disagree with her views. She may think twice about saying something like that in the future, and that slows the echo chamber of xenophobia just a little.
A little is better than nothing. The first raindrop starts the flood.