Always tense, but reasonably so

For about as long as I can remember, at least a little fear of people has been woven into the fabric of every backdrop.  If I started to think the world was welcoming as a kid, a bully would quickly emerge with the shadow of a giant.  There was no space a bully couldn’t get to, and I suppose the place they most get to is one’s head.  Your places with a lot of people that aren’t considered the typical definition of scenic — long-term residents either try to live around the natural result of a lack of elbow room/resources, or they become part of the problems that, outside of these places, defines them entirely.  Make this space one full of dark-skinned people of color, and it is typically deemed to be quite scary, a land of bullies, by people whom consider themselves in sync with a “natural” notion of what is picturesque and peaceful.

Lots of people want to live in a world where they’ve minimized the presence of people whom are somehow as scary-looking as they are bad, but that notion is at the expense of anything remotely fair  — and it’s certainly at the expense of people whom happen to be “scary-looking.”  I’m sure some people don’t care, because these are scary-looking people we’re talking about.  “And **** ’em.”  Right?  Well, the last six months or so has seen the tragic slayings of a few people looking for help while happening to be black (And these were just the ones with a relatively high profile).  The kind of paranoia and rampantly internalized fear that often leads to these events is what’s really scary.  Can you imagine being lost and needing to ask for help in a place where you looked “scary”?  Your confusion, your reaching out to someone else for help, somehow warped into something “monstrous.”

If one were lost, one would reasonably feel a certain level of fear, too.  It’s strange to think such a fear can misconstrued, but it’s hardly surprising.  While some level of fear is a boon in a world full of myriad possibilities, it seems like there’s so many people so existentially lost they’re always afraid of anything that doesn’t share the hallmarks of the funhouse mirrors making them look otherwise.

Fear, quite simply, keeps us on our toes, wards off from potential dangers.  We have the kind wrought via personal experiences and, more often it sometimes seems, stereotypes from the twisted strain that is most media (yes, even the one you like that’s the good one).  How much of a reign is one giving these forces in one’s head when someone else is doing wrong by just looking like those bullies?

If someone “scary” gives you the stink eye, or if they make a rude comment, I know that’s not fun and that it can easily set a harsh tone.  But your not-joyful day should not be the ultimate signifier of someone else’s worth as a human being.  Someone being a jerk or terse hardly makes them someone who would do harm to one’s person, but just looking a certain way can result in those attitudes being interpreted much differently.  There’s a cultural conditioning to be afraid of violence from scary people — often easily chalked up to people of color.  One should certainly be wary of certain kinds of behaviors and looks, but in order to even be an effective judge of these in people, shouldn’t one be able to talk and listen to others who happen to not look quite so much like them?   Or, at least, such seems like it’d be quite vital to discerning humanity beyond people we’re conditioned to have an inclination for.

Here’s what some people in diverse areas do every day.  They keep their guard up¸right up until the actions of a person they find scary is or isn’t detrimental.  Guard up around all kinds of potential dangers, including a kind of violence that’s more likely to be inflicted on someone else who is a person of color.  So much violence results from some imagined slight that’s amplified by how insecure someone else is, and such a mindset often seems to regard these imagined slights even more when they’re from someone that’s not supposed to be “better” than them.   So people of color have to fear generally messed up human beings, generally messed up human beings who can see a bit more of themselves in them,  and being seen as scary when they’re in the wrong place and perhaps look like they’re having a bad day, or just look like a certain way at all.

One of the many reasons people in some loosely classifiable groups have a short life expectancy is because they live in the thick of it — of good and bad, from all sides.  There’s no strain to wring out the easiest or the “best” of this or that for them.  On top of such, it particularly wears one down — always trying to be strong enough to both discern danger and still be human.  But people still do it.

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4 responses to “Always tense, but reasonably so

  1. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to being lost and needing to ask for help in a place where you looked “scary”.

    I did try and all I could think of were times back before tattoos and punk rock looks were more socially acceptable, and It was assumed I would steal and was a drug user (not that far fetched really), but it can not compare it to a lifetime of concern to be feared simply because you were born with a dark pigmentation. I have nothing to compare to that.

    I can’t help but judge books by their covers and yet I am always ready to read the boringest or scariest looking books. We all judge, It is human and we are truly alike, we would be lying to say otherwise…

    I am lucky to consider who you are inside a choice.., A black and white man could be both good people, intelligent people, and they could both be horrible ignorant thugs, but I am not color blind,

    I wish that every person felt like they wanted to disprove a stereotype. I wish that anyone, especially anyone who isn’t considered “white” would completely go against the idea that they should be violent, or have any criminal intent. I think It should be considered racists to commit any type of crime when you are black or spanish because of the way it can set an entire race back. I would feel betrayed.

    I am a white girl (that does not go unseen) and being a girl can be scary in and of itself.

    I can’t run at night, I am afraid because I was hurt in the night by someone who wasn’t white, Does that make me think every hispanic will hurt me? No…
    Most males scare me though that goes unchanged…

    I think you are lucky to have seen change, as am I. I am not living in a time when women were property. I am allowed to vote to go to school. I do not live in a country where I must cover my face and/or rape and honor killing of women is socially acceptable… I am so lucky, but yet sometimes I too wish the leftovers of the past judgement could dissipate, but I can only truly understand my point of view…

    Your point of view was a good read though…You helped me to see a view I couldn’t of if you had not painted it so well.

    • Simply because of the way that people who are white don’t lose any stock when someone else who is white does something awful, I don’t think it should be racist for a different race to not bear that weight. It’s a perfect example of privilege that some people can be separate from the worst of humanity, even when it happens to look more like them than others.

      We’re all certainly lucky, but one should never feel okay with less limitations on their humanity than the generation before it. Some people who’ve systemically been given more stock than others think that any notion of equality infringes upon their humanity — but that’s just selfishness. I don’t think one should ignore how much power can insulate people from the world at large and make someone seem better than someone else.

      I’m certain it’s not easy being a woman, in ways that I can’t fully understand — but should keep trying to.

      • Oh trust me, I am ashamed of my race on a daily basis…

        While I think many of us ( never all) believe that moving forward to a greater humanity is a goal, how can we not appreciate the strides towards getting there.
        It is like damning young ignorant children because they can not read perfectly… They are trying to read, and hopefully one day, perfection can be accomplished, but I understand that you don’t feel like it’s enough.

        I also don’t believe in equality. I don’t think it has anything to do with skin color. I believe our morality should be judged. Good people… are not everywhere.

  2. I don’t believe all people are equal as far as being half-way decent human beings go, either. I just think everyone should get the chance. It’s easier for some people to go down the wrong path if that’s the one where they see everybody around them — and the people who look like them — going, and maybe it’s easier for some messed up people to always thinks of themselves as perfectly okay when their looks somehow disassociate them from really being flawed.

    You’re right about the taking the time to appreciate strides. I suppose the thing is that one can’t reach perfection (this doesn’t apply to reading, in which one can certainly read well enough). There’s always going to be people trying to make themselves feel like they’re better than somebody else at the expense of others, always going to be people trying to fill the emptiness in themselves through some illusion of superiority.

    It’s like — the notion of love that is supposed to be out there making the world a better place. That kind of love is more of an ideal to strive for, even though people celebrate an empty shallow version everyday.

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