Transactional interactions and everday racism

I recently initiated a transactional interaction with someone. As in I approached it as a transactional interaction. Pretty quickly — and I came away feeling much better for it — through their pleasant and engaging manner, they changed the nature of our interaction. And I am very thankful for it.

The interaction was at a convenience stall/service station. I was paying for an item for the trip home, after 5 days away. The trip started with a 2 day event in one city, a two day event in another city (in which I was an organiser) followed by a one day event. I was feeling a little spent. I approached the person at the counter without really thinking of them as an actual person.

In part, my transactional approach reflected feeling a little drained. What is also embodied was a societal-learned approach to such interactions as de-personalised. As in I did not view the interaction as being an engagement with an actual person. I was literally and figuratively being served.

The person who served me repsonded to me as a person. This was in stark contrast to my transactional approach. It was akin to a de-escalation through diversion. They reminded me how everyday interactions, however we may view them as insignificant, are inherently socially important (beyond the emotional benefit for myself — I came away feeling much less drained).

There is another layer to my tranactional approach, and one that I need to further (continually) reflect on. The person at the counter was South-Asian. The intersection of unmarked and oblivious (to me) racism certainly influenced (hopefully small, and decreasing) my appraoching the interaction as a transaction.

There was an element of everyday racism (and, interlinked, everyday social classism), enmeshed in such transactionalism. In many ways, I Othered them before I even had an inkling of who they were and are. I felt I had nothing to gain from interacting with them beyond a transaction — based on (non-conscious and oblivious) preconceived notions and judgments about them.

With the rise in right-wing political organisations, their influence on the everyday, and a shifting further towards the right of electoral politics and parties, this is a dangerous time. For me, embodying elements of their rhetoric/assumptions, however minor is quite a telling (and unsettling) sign… There is work to be done.

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