For many years as I lived in the Mission, I ignored much of what was whispered as I walked along the sidewalks. Essentially what that meant was that I only heard what I wanted to hear and ignored everything else—including racial and sexist comments.
Shortly after I moved here in 2006, a friend and I walked down Valencia Street. Apparently someone yelled something at me, but I didn’t hear a single thing. My friend, a white dude, was offended for me. He said something racist, my friend declared.
He did? I answered obliviously.
I continued on.
Of course, I had always been quite passionate about any injustice. I remember distinctly arguing with my parents as they disagreed about the way that race took part in our lives. Around my high school days. But despite my desire to change things—I felt incredibly held back by social anxiety and a general lack of confidence. I never participated in any protests or join any groups…or even tried to change society. Instead, i only tried my best.
Until the last year with everything. I try to be sensitive to things going on around me.
As we walked back from dinner today, I heard some white couple talked about the police and how it was challenging. I didn’t think too much about it, except how annoying they were to dodge around us as they rushed to get in line at the Chapel. Once we were out of earshot, Chris noted that the guy was complaining about the black guy drumming upside down buckets and about how the noise was a front for laziness, drunkenness, and how the police wouldn’t do anything about it.
I was incensed. The overt racism. The disrespect. The dismissiveness of the residents just living here. Even if the guy was going drink or whatever, that’s his choice. His choices, as long as they don’t infringe on physically hurting others, are his and he’s free to make them. He may use up the city’s resources, but this then becomes a more systemic problem in trying to understand the root of the issue.
Chris noted how the couple likely went to the Chapel to listen to music likely by white performers. Then they were very likely to go next door to Tacolicious, a partial representation of “Mexican” food. I agreed. They would declare how the Mission is so fun and cultural while never interacting with the people who live here.
Earlier in the day, I recalled the memory of talking to a female Asian friend who grew up in the South. She talked about how people in the Bay Area believe that they’re not racist, but incredibly they are. It’s probably worse, we agreed. But then this is an area that I felt less educated about—the solutions that could fix it. I tried to make an intellectual argument—that now felt a little dumb, it’s hard to fix systemic racism. It’s hard to change everything, I said. She became firey insisting that people in the Bay Area don’t get it. She knew, because she grew up in the South where the amount of racism is about the same. And that there is an easy solution to fix systematic racism. But whatever she said nice, I could not remember. Not because I was stunned that she was shaming me for my ignorance, but because I didn’t understand her solution. I just couldn’t understand it.
But right now, I wonder if I heard it at all.