racism and discrimination are alive and well. they are more subtle and less violent but they sill lurk in the shadows and corners of our society. I experience it and deal with it on a regular a basis. it raises its ugly head and attempts to cast a shadow over my daily life quite often....more often than i'd like to admit. discrimination against the homeless is prevelant whether or not we want to admit it. It happens daily to many of us and it takes place in every public place and venue. we can't escape it.
when I come to mcdonalds for coffee I see your face when you look at me as I walk in the door. you don't look at me directly when you speak to me. you seldom smile and when you do it's almost a forced action. I see you speaking to other people in line ahead of me before I approach the register and I see the change in your expression and tone as you're taking my order. it's almost a reluctance on your part to have to deal with me as part of your job. I am polite and always say thank you...not only to you but to everyone I encounter. I am pleasant to you despite knowing that you had rather not be standing face to face with me. you hand me my order, again without looking directly at me and say your obligatory thank you and have a nice day. I take the bag and turn and leave. I don't dwell on your feelings toward me but it chips away at my belief that we should be long past this sort of indirect and subtle stereotyping of individuals.
when I am walking thru your neighborhood I see the looks you give me as I pass by. I've seen those looks before as if to say, "who are you and why are you waliking in my block." I am just passing thru but I can feel the sense of not belonging in this neighborhood that you are silently giving me. I speak and say good morning as I walk by and often you say nothing. if you're alone and noone can hear you may say a begrudging good morning in return. I see the police officer slow down as he passes and look my way, knowing that I stand out and don't live here. I have had one stop and ask me where i'm going and why i'm in this area. I've had them check my identification and run a warrant search simply because I am different than you. it's insulting and disquieting to know that this happens only because I am different. I accept it but deep down I resent it. I should be able to pass thru any neighborhood and not be judged by my appearance or perception by you or anyone else.
when I enter the social services building to check on or receive some information that I need, I see the security guard quietly watch me enter, go up the steps and then see what direction I take as I reach the second floor. when I enter the receptionist is smiling and chatting with other clients and I see the smile diminish when I walk up to the desk. the cheerful smile and demeanor turns to a formal greeting and somewhat automatic tone when I speak with her. I sit down among you and wait. I can feel and I can see some of you looking at me because I am different. some of you smile a condescending smile but most of you look away as I sit patiently waiting for my turn. some of you look at me with what I can only call a passive sense of disdain. I've seen the young children look at me and smile, not yet being schooled in the prejudices and discriminatory practices of the adult world. I see you quickly attempt to get their attention on something else...anything else other than me. you glance at me as you do this as if to say you have no right to smile at my child. I remain sitting quietly waiting my turn and begin to think of how the concept of discrimination and contempt for those that are different than ourselves is holding us back as a society in general. I look at the young child and hope she never learns it or comes to practice it.
when I read the newspapers and watch the news on television or the internet, I see politicians making policies and arguing points that directly effect me. I cringe when I see these lawmakers and politicians attempting to stereotype me or group me into a category as they speak about unemployment, poverty or the homeless. I see them attempting to enact legislation that is in direct contradiction to the principles and my understanding of the fundamental rights we have in this country. I see them blaming me somewhat for the plight and condition of the inner city and the decaying neighborhoods. I hear them speak of me when they announce a set of problems they believe are contributing to the lack of progress being made on the economic front in our city. these politicians and lawmakers enact ordinances, laws and policies that directly and intentionally favor other groups over me simply because of who I am. I read the articles and op-eds about me and how I am impeding social progress, am responsible for a large part of the lack of progress in the fight on poverty. I read how I hold a part of the blame for unemployment. I hear the discussions about me as a group and the effects of the inner city upon me and vice versa. I read it...I hear it...and become dismayed that I am held in such a regard simply because I am different than you.
when I am with you...as my friend....we speak openly, genuinely and frankly about many topics. we laugh or have serious discussions about many things. but if your friends are present the conversation is different. you keep yourself at a distance and are reluctant to let your friends be aware that we are friends. I can see it in your demeanor and hear it in your tone and am aware of the new body language you now present. you too, even though I know you are my friend, are aware of and uncomfortable with the fact that I am different.
I remain hopeful that one day this will change. I remain confident that one generation in the near future will no longer experience the feelings and emotions that I do when I encounter the discrimination and prejudices from you. I truly believe that one day we will get past the fact that I am different than you and you will accept me as I have accepted you. I hope one day you can look at me and not see me as someone not to be trusted and someone to be treated in a different manner than you do anyone else. I hope that one day you will look at me and not see me as someone different than yourself. you have looked beyond the fact that i'm homeless, all of the things that I mentioned above happens not because I have dealt with and have been fighting homelessness. they occur simply because of the color of my skin. I am white.
discrimination against the homeless is fundamentally wrong. prejudices and discrimination against someone....anyone.....by any race.......because of the color of their skin is unacceptable and a cancer that should be extricated from our society on all levels.
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
mlk jr.speech in St. Louis, Missouri, March 22, 1964
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
mlk jr Strength to Love (1963)
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
mlk jr "I Have a Dream" speech, August 28, 1963
see you around town