9.25.2007

 

None but a coward dares to boast that he has never known fear.

Ferdinand Foch- French General 1851-1929

I've admitted before I am a country girl. I love living close to the city and everything that goes with it. But I am not always comfortable with it. I don't always know how to react or even act. I spend a large amount of my working time in areas of Philly that a majority of the population is Black. Or is the Proper Term African American? I don't know. I am not racist, nor am I afraid of Black people. I am however afraid of the City People. White, Black, Hispanic whatever they may be, in Philly they might shoot you. For looking at them. For being at the wrong place at the wrong time. On accident. For being white. We have crested the 300 mark on murders this year already.

And today I wanted to go to the park for lunch.

The Awbury Arboretum is on the corner of Chew Ave and Washington Ln. It's not the nicest neighborhood, but so what! It's Daytime! In a PARK! Nothing can happen right? Wrong. I got a reality check today and it scared me. I walked a small circuit of the park taking pics of flowers and general crap and decided to sit next to a mud hole they called a pond and see if I could get some good pics of the Bullfrogs. As I was waiting for the frogs to acclimate to my presence and come back 3 Black men came up the short stairway to the park. (Hereafter known as The Young One, The Old One and The Homeless one.) Which, really? No Big Deal. Except then The Young One turned around and sat down blocking the steps out of the park. And the Old One and the Homeless one stumbled over to the edge of the pond and tried to set their 40's down without breaking them.

Still! None of this is a big deal right? Right. Except I had a bad feeling. At which point I have to ask myself, Am I just being prudent? Would I react the same way if it was 3 White guys? What if they weren't obviously drunk? Would that make me more comfortable or less? They aren't talking to me, they aren't even looking at me, except I know this to be a 'Bad Area".


The Old One wanders over behind a tree to relieve himself (polite at least), and I pack up my camera. The Homeless One seems to be staring at me, but that could just be me thinking that, or him just being drunk. The Old one still hadn't come out from behind the tree and it had been about 10 minutes. I decided he might be doing drugs and I don't care, I'm leaving the park. Now. I start walking around the little pond and this guy is taking a nod, dick still in hand, while leaning against the tree. I try not to look at him, or the Homeless one as I pass by. My senses are hyper alert and I excuse myself down the stairs without incident. The Young One goes back on up the steps and completes his deal, (Whatever it was, I saw him after I got back in my car and I was pulling away, he had a black bag of something. Could have been a 40, could have been drugs, could have been a gun. OR, it could have been nothing. A book. A new shirt. I don't know.)

I don't like these feelings that today has left me with. I am afraid. I am disgusted with myself for being afraid of people. Afraid of Black People. Not all Black people Hate Whitey, or want to shoot people, or do drugs. Some of them are just trying to make it through the day. Just like me. And just like some of you. I don't want to think it makes me racist to be afraid, and yet I am afraid being afraid makes me racist. Or bigoted. Or a bad person.

When it comes down to the bare bones I am not a city girl. I think it's different if you are born in a city. There is something bred into you very DNA that makes you adept at knowing whats trouble, and whats ok, and when to leave the park. It's not going to keep me from doing my job and I will not be controlled by my fear. But I will not go back to that park. And I will be afraid when I drive through that area. If I am listening to rap, I will turn it down so they can't hear and think me a poser. Or I may even change the station all together.

Fear leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

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Comments:
You should not be so hard on yourself. If you are alone and three shady guys walk up, no matter what color they are, and you feel unsafe it is totally justified that you walk away. Do not take your gut instinct for granted. You are right, you don’t know what was in the bag, drugs, guns, whatever but better safe than sorry. I lived many years alone in New Orleans, and I learned to read people and feel them out, or so I like to think. I was probably a little too trusting. I lived in a veryy shady neighborhood, alone, and never realized how people viewed that until one day an old black cab driver picked me up and asked what the hell a little white girl like me was doing living in this hood? Who knows? May be I just got lucky. Bottom line, in my opinion, if you felt unsafe then you did the right thing by leaving.
 
I've had those moments and I hate being "scared" too - but I agree - if your instincts say "unsafe" you have to go with them, no matter what.
 
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