I was walking down mission street in San Francisco with my girlfriend. I had taken a similar trip like this once before with her where we walked in wonder at all the thrift stores, gazed curiously at the murals/graffiti, and partook in some of the best Mexican food I had ever tasted. Before that trip I was warned of the area, that it might be unsafe or, at the very least, sketchy, but it didn’t phase me. I was worried initially sure, because we as humans are set to always be afraid of the unknown, but I was too anxious to count it.
This time around I felt more comfortable, but just as I always am, especially with my girlfriend, I am more aware in big cities. They are a confined space full of turns and dead ends where you never know what will happen. I naturally was on guard; ready to jab out physically only to discover I was already jabbing emotionally.
We passed a crowd of four Mexican who were crowding the sidewalk by being on either side of the walkway. Any intelligent,aware individual can see that as setup for a jumping, but even though it was broad daylight I still flinched and purposefully went around them in the street. Soon I came across two tall black men standing on either sides of the walkway, just as the Mexicans before them had. A woman walking in front of us walked out in the street to avoid them and as she did, one of the black men spoke out “You are going that way just to dodge us, but we wont hurt ya.” The women continued on her way to the other side of the street just as I recognized they were no threat and walked between the two men. As we walked by the black man said “Don’t worry, we’re all friends here.” At this moment I was touched at his reassurance and angry at my ignorance. I can’t imagine how it feels to be regarded as threat when you did nothing to merit it. I walked on and the only speech I could muster in return was the wish of a good day to both of them.
I continued, but with a sad sense of guilt on my heart. It is more than offensive to be threatened irrationally and without a word, because irrational is what it was. My reasons so twisted by popular culture and the infamy of the area that I would so wrongly offend two friendly people. The situation churns my insides and almost makes me tear at my ignorance. How could I be so willing to accept the unknown, but fear it likewise?
It all comes down to stereotypes; those dumb generalization that misguide us all. But isn’t that all we have to go on? Hearsay? rumors? It all keeps us so protected my claustrophobia is acting up. Was it the bad reputation of the area? or was it the people? Probably a combination of the two, but neither makes it right. We all hear that “Asians are good at math.” or that “Black people are deceitful” and we never really question it, because we see it being proven right in the news when the next hot physicist is Asian or when some Black people break into a car. This is no way to see the world; to judge at every turn without discretion. I understand that a stereotype or two may have kept you safe, but from what? Odds say if you heard that a place was full of black people and was considered “ghetto”, you never went. So how could you know?
I don’t mean to be so serious all of the sudden, but when I think of simplifying such a complex creation as a human being into categories of intelligence, mistrust, cleanliness, or thievery; it just makes me believe in our simplicity (Wrap your head around that conundrum). So simple to believe the bullshit without an inkling to see what is the truth is. Don’t let ignorance, and more so, fear stop you from the intrigue of the world. We are at constant risk in this world, so what is a little more that may not be there at all?
Have great sleep or awake,
“The unexamined life is a life not worth living”