We, as in the paler shade of the human race, tend to avoid the “bad parts of town” or the “‘hood” or whatever sparkled up sort of nom de plume we want to give any area mostly populated by the darker shade/poorer class of the human race. I, personally, can attest to the fact that the lighter you are, the “better”. In fact, in deepest, darkest, South Side Chicago, where I worked with the Freedom School last summer, in the midst of the Zimmerman debacle and verdict, I was told, “white skin makes you Teflon”. Huh nuh wha? But, horribly enough, it’s true.
The only time I’ve been stopped by police or even questioned by them was to be asked, and this is a direct quote,
“Are you lost?” “No officer.” “Do you know where you are?” “Yes, officer I do.” “Are you ok?” “Just fine officer.” “You sure ma’am?” “Yes officer, can I get about my day now sir?” “Ok, I really hope you know what you’re doing here.”
The most hysterical time I’ve ever been asked these questions, it’s happened more than once and is always the same, was when the Washington Park Freedom School was being raided. I’d not seen this many Chicago PD since the March on NATO. Middle of the night, at least a dozen cops in the house, another gods know how many outside, and three supervisors. They are raiding the place as a “suspected terrorist organization” and they got all upset that a pale women was the only one in the house! I guess actually educating children is a revolutionary idea now. It was all I could do to remain respectful and not crack up. I mean, seriously, do they think random pale skins just wander into the ‘hood for the heck of it or what?
I have been “stopped and questioned” while: delivering postcards announcing neighborhood events, playing Secret Santa, setting up my campstove in the garden to have an impromptu cooking class with 20 kids at my sides and walking to the corner store to get a Vess soda. (Yes, I roll that way, it’s cheap and tastes just like Orange Crush, don’t judge!)
Does this sort of thing put me on some sort of parallel with what happens to the folks who live in those neighborhoods, regardless of their shade? No, no and hell no! The only time I’ve even been some sort of sketchy to the cops was when I was circling a local park trying to figure out which picnic area to rent. The cop thought I was shopping for drugs.
I have been walking with friends, in my neighborhood, which is mixed, who were “cruised” by a cop and then, all Officer Friendly like, asked if they were with me. WTF is that? As far as I know, the Civil War ended over a century ago and no one, woman or POC needs a hall pass from anyone! Yes, it makes me furious and I apologize profusely to my friends. Heck, sometimes I have to apologize to my own kids! Yeah, my kids are reminiscent of an old Bennington ad. (look it up if you don’t remember). About half of them look like “they don’t belong to me” at least to someone who doesn’t know the family I guess.
Do I think we paler types need to go into these areas all “Savior style”? No, not bloody likely. I do think that, if our skin shade affords us some unearned rights and privileges, then we do have a duty to employ said privilege on behalf of those that don’t get it because of the color of their skin. If, and it’s a BIG if, the people there want and ask for our help. Attempting to gentrify a depressed area in order to be more comfortable in your pale skin is bogus BS of the first magnitude. If we can’t be comfortable there, as it is there, wtf are we doing there? After all, none of us get to choose our parents or our class that we are born into and the America I was raised to believe in and work towards was one of equality. Yes, it ‘s a pie-in-the-sky proposition. But, how are things going to change for the better for everyone if we, pale faces, can’t get over ourselves and put ourselves out there to meet and be humans with our fellow humans no matter what their shade or socioeconomic status?
So, here it is again, that question that needs an answer: Why don’t “we” go there? Well, I’ve found that, “we don’t go there” simply because “we don’t go there”. Period. There’s nothing stopping us except our own fear of the unknown. I’m lucky, I was the “mutant on the mantle”, i.e. the one who’s picture stood out from the rest in my family of birth and my friends. And if you’ve not got the guts that an old, gimpy, blond woman has, then hit the “we pay” button and fork over some $$ to help the ones who do “go there”…though we’d really rather have YOU there with US!