Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Because of My Uniqueness. (By Jerry)

Jerry wrote the following as part of an assignment in a job-readiness training program he was taking here at the DI. These are his experiences, his words, his beliefs.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author only.

Hello, I have been asked to relate an experience of “discrimination or prejudice towards me based on my appearance or living situation”, and how I reacted to it. There are two situations that come to mind so I pass them both along.

It was a warm sunny May day about eight years ago. Although it was warm, the wind was blowing and thus messing with my otherwise well tended tresses. I was not having a particularly good day, and really just wanted to be left alone and pursue my own interests.

I was heading east on 7 ave. (between 9 and 8 street), when from a group of midlevel office people that were sitting on the steps of an office building I hear, “ Hey look, Encino Man.”

It took me two or three steps to fully register what the “gentleman” had said about me, but when realization did hit, I stopped, turned around, walked back to the group, stopping in front of the quipster.

In my most restrained manner I said, “ I’m sure that you’re parents taught you better manners than that.”

Whereupon he said, “ Oh sorry, should I have said Mr. Encino Man?”

I am sorry to say, I slapped him, (ok, maybe I’m not sorry), told him that “his grandparents should have done THAT more often”, and walked away.

This may not sound like a large transgression in the big picture of life, but then you have to understand just how often in a month, week, or day that something like this or worse happens. How often does a row of vehicles at a stop and go light hit their power locks as you are walking down the sidewalk?? As if I’m going to carjack them while they’re stuck in traffic!! How about the mother with stroller and toddler, who crosses the street rather than walk by you. Let us not forget about the two little old ladies at the department store who purposefully go through the door eight feet away even though you were holding the door right in front of them for them. This is the type of attitude I have to deal with day in and day out.

The following is another specific example of unprofessional behavior. It might be noted also that it is not always in ones best interest to retaliate against prejudice. This incident happened in the middle of winter. At one time in the not too distant past, the drug trade was driven across the river and into the environs of the neighborhood coffee shop.

I was being driven back downtown about six in the morning intending to be dropped at the coffee shop. Upon pulling into the parking lot, it was evident that the police were rousting the nefarious element hanging about. As to be expected, the car was surrounded, our identification checked and we were freed to leave.

Rather than go to the coffee shop, (too much action about), I figured to grab my coffee at the Esso station. On the walk across the lot it came to my attention that the police had a cruiser in the south west corner of the lot with an officer announcing through the PA system that, “ You crack heads stay on that side of the bridge. You have no business here. Go back to your side of the bridge.”

This was being repeated over and over by the officers. It should be made clear that the people he was talking to were the fellows who work everyday, and are picked up by their rides or bosses at the coffee shop. The majority of them weren’t druggies at all!!!

Though I was miffed, I made my way without incident into the station and poured my coffee. While waiting to pay, one of the officers that checked my friends and me came in. I said to him, “I understand the concern of the businesses and neighborhood about the criminal element and activity in the area. But is it really necessary to group everyone under one umbrella?”

The officer understood that I was talking not only about myself, but also about the people just wanting to come over to conduct their normal daily routine before going to work. The reply given to me was, “ If you look like them, talk with them and act like them, then you must be one of them.”

The camel screamed, its back was finally broken.

In a state of controlled cold fury I looked directly into the officers eyes and said, “Using that premise, looking at you I should see a guy who leaves his family at home on a Saturday afternoon, goes to a fellow officer’s house for a barbeque, drinks his face off all afternoon, jumps into his sports ute all f'd up, drives the wrong way down 22X, has a head on with another vehicle killing all four occupants two of whom were children. It’s a good thing I’m not that cynical yet.”

(The incident I have just described DID happen with an officer of CPS. The outcome was that the officer was suspended with pay pending his successful completion of a twenty-eight day treatment program whereupon he was reinstated to the force.) The officer immediately left the store, which is when I realized that I had made my point too well. When I left the store, the officers were waiting for me. They called me to their car, I was apologizing as I was nearing them. Fortunate for me these officers were not blinded by their biases. I received a dressing down, but was allowed to leave unscathed.

These are just a couple of examples of the type of bias and prejudice that I endure on nearly a daily basis. Generally I accept people’s comments, actions, and behaviors, it was not always this way. Often I get asked why I don’t change the way I look. To this I always say, “What does it matter how I look compared to who I am.” Richard Nixon was clean cut, Adolph Hitler was groomed and brushed, yet they were both less than nice people. It is nice to know that not all people have phobias about people like me.

There are times where because of my uniqueness I am hounded.

I guess I’ve got to accept the good with the bad.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic story, Gerry! I love your writing.


Anonymous said...

In it all charm!