Residents rally after Burghfield Common Post Office race hate incident
BURGHFIELD Common residents converged on the local post office on Monday last week to help remove a racial slur sprayed on the shop's front overnight.
Owner Raj Odedra said he has been the subject of social media abuse for weeks now.
Much of this, he alleges, relates to his opposition to plans for a pop-up pub at the local recreation ground.
However, there was recently a major escalation.
Mr Odedra said: "We've been under bombardment from social media for certain things.
"We've been under the abuse that people sometimes get on social media for stuff like that, and it was getting worse and worse.
"I kind of instructed all the staff: 'Look, don't say anything, just keep quiet, we've done nothing wrong here.'
"Then on Sunday night, some little cherub decided to express his own opinions on the front of our shop.
"We found out on Monday, at which point we decided to close the shop down."
The word 'P***' had been daubed on the front of the post office.
Thames Valley Police were notified and the incident was logged as a hate crime.
Mr Odedra has lived and worked in Burghfield Common for almost two decades.
He describes it as "one of the best places in the world to live", and has always had a warm relationship with the community at large.
However, the recent incident had led him to seriously consider his future in the village.
He said: "I'm a person of brown skin – I make no bones about that.
"I'm proud of my heritage.
"When you're of a skin colour that's not white, you know that, at some point, someone's going to make a little snidey comment.
"I've had it my whole life, I've had much worse than somebody coming and spraying letters on our door.
"You kind of become used to it, even though I don't think, in this day and age, you should.
"My other half is white, and she's got a couple of lads who are white.
"For me, it's just letters on the wall – it didn't really mean anything, it's really hard to kind of explain this.
"For them, they've never, ever had to face this kind of prejudice.
"And the sad thing is, when you're a white person, you'll never have to face racial prejudice of any sort.
"It hurt them more than it ever bothered me, and that's the horror I took away."
While he had seriously contemplated leaving town, the response of villagers changed this.
On Monday afternoon – just after the graffiti had been reported – a group of concerned residents came to scrub it away.
Mr Odedra said: "We were out there scrubbing it, and people that we ordinarily, on any given day, would be like, 'all right, they're just our ordinary customers, etcetera, etcetera' – they were just turning up, pulling up, saying, 'right, move over, we're going to give you a hand'.
"That's the kind of take I would like from this story.
"Yes, you, do have an absolutely tiny minority of people who have these pig-headed, blind, blinkered opinions of the world.
"But they are, by far, completely blown out of the water by the decent people in the community."