The scene was perfectly predictable. Mid morning, mid week in the carpark of a small shopping centre near our house, a snapshot of suburban life. A sunny and slow Sydney day.
I’d loaded the groceries in, clicked my baby into her carseat and was in the process of collapsing the pram to load in the boot, when I noticed a woman waiting for my park. The driver of the shiny black BMW was in her fifties, possibly her sixties, with immaculately coiffed blonde hair and a string of pearls around her neck. She looked like a genteel cliche.
She was anything but.
“Go around me you stupid black woman” I heard. I was so shocked, I immediately turned around. These ugly words had indeed been spat out of the mouth of the BMW driver. There was a scowl on her face as she signalled to the woman, waiting perfectly patiently, behind her.
I heard it because the window of her BMW was down and I was standing less than a metre from her car.
I am quite sure the second driver, a middle aged Asian woman, didn't hear it, small mercy, because her car windows were closed and she seemed completely non-plussed, chatting to the teenager sitting in her passenger seat.
My heart was racing. I was shocked and disgusted. Had I heard right? Surely not, I tried to convince myself.
But I did hear right and I was at a loss as to what to do.
Confront her? Report her? To whom?
It was repulsive to encounter: pure unadulterated racism. The car park wasn't busy, the waiting driver wasn't on her horn, there was no obvious trigger for the outburst.
At a loss, I glared at her before closing the boot and driving away.
I spent the rest of the day trying to process it. Who speaks like that? The contrast between this woman's perfectly polished exterior and the vulgar interior that her language revealed was stark.
Watch: Stan Grant on racism in Australia. Post continues after video.