One of the themes explored in “She Shall Not Be Moved” by Shereen Pandit is racism. It is the racism of the two white women that sets off the central conflict in the story. They believe that black people like the Somali woman and the narrator “want everything their way” (l. 95) and this is why the two women feel entitled to occupy the seats which they are actually supposed to abandon.
The women get away with this behavior because no one on the bus reacts. The narrator describes it this way: “I look at the other passengers in the second half of the bus, past the stairs. All white. No-one’s saying anything, no-one’s seeing anything, no-one’s hearing anything. Not their business.” (ll. 100-102). By their refusal to interfere, the other passengers are allowing an injustice to continue.
The narrator, who used to be a political activist, remarks that having laws against racial discrimination is not enough: “They can say what they like about anti-racist laws, but I’ve yet to see them stop people like these two sling their poison around.” (ll. 98-99). The point is that laws only protect people if everybody respects those laws.
The bus driver, who represents authority, does not resolve the conflict. Despite being black himself, he does not side with the Somali woman, who is in the right, and merely yells at her. The narrator does not trust the police to do the right thing, either: “He’d probably call the police for me, if I gave them lip. And guess whose side the police would be on!” (ll. 150-151).
The racism which the narrator witnesses towards the Somali woman makes her act out her own kind of racism: She refuses to give up her seat to an elderly white woman. She does so only to get back at the two white women. This shows how racism can easily become a negative cycle.
Thus, this short story shows that racism can exist even in modern societies with laws...