January 30, 2013
Tonight for the first time, I felt intimidated in my community and it upset me more than I thought it would.
I know it’s not the world ending or massive natural disaster and I totally wasn’t attacked (so many people are*) but I was surprised how I felt.
For context; I attended a meeting at the beach and said I would hand out flyers after the meeting. By the time it ended it was about 8pm (still light) and the beach was emptying.
I sauntered along, deciding that I am brave-treat-people-fairly girl so I will walk up directly to the guys who were drinking and then the other group of guys who were clearly gang members, face tattoos and all.
Because, you know, being judgmental is bad.
A couple of them were totally wasted, they were loud and obnoxious and started blustering. They weren’t threatening towards me but I got nervous because I worried that they would.
I became hyper-sensitive to all their gestures, words and expressions, self-conscious of my appearance level of eye-contact, if I was laughing too loudly, not loudly enough. As I walked around I tried to be aware of where they all were. I was leaving, I was nervous walking past to my car.
Clearly I was being a bit paranoid, but the thing is if you’re like me, you’ve had your share of situations where you’ve felt intimidated, threatened, perhaps even under attack. I felt so conditioned. Like a well trained dog, and my bell had just been rung.
Well it turns out that feeling of fear doesn’t go away. It popped right back up. Like a familiar grinning Jack-in-the-box. And it surprised me how viceral that felt.
I have been in a bubble for the last couple of years. With little kids I don’t go out late much, I don’t hang out where people drink much and I certainly don’t have reason to walk up to a bunch of gang members much.
What was I expecting I wonder? Did I think that they would be so moved my my genuine effort to include them in the community planing process that they would put down their drinks and talk seriously with me?
This group of guys were clearly alienating themselves from the general community and carving a deep chasm between ‘them’ and everyone else. That will make the ‘them’, their identity as a group, all that much stronger I suspect.
As much as I wanted to be inclusive they didn’t want to be included. At least, not tonight.
It takes more than good intentions to bridge those gaps.
It takes more that one naive chick to help people feel part of a community.
So I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I certainly wasn’t expecting that old friend, that sick feeling in my stomach.
* As far as human tragedy goes, this is such small potatoes, I know this.