Darren and I stand in the shade of a tree watching the children play soccer in the coned off street; children of all colors and ages laughing and running together. The final game of the world cup just finished so all the kids are excited about soccer. Watching them enjoy themselves we talk about the contrasts of where we work and where we live.
There are many differences of course but we see it from a unique perspective. We walk into people’s houses and apartments, sometimes on the worst or even the last day of their life; we see how they live, what their prized possessions are, and what’s missing in their life. Most notably we see the lack of books and computers along with the lack of fathers. The children of the hood are growing up with a myopic view of the world without the benefits of a strong family unit. The socioeconomic inequity of their situation is propagated from generation to generation; teenage mothers becoming thirty year old grandmothers. Their education comes from the street which becomes the extent of their world view. Of course they are angry; they have a right to be angry. They’ve been marginalized by society and government with ever shrinking budgets and reduced social programs to benefit the people in need. The violence is a manifestation of their inability to adequately communicate their needs and create effective change in their communities. In many cases violent outrage is the only voice they have left.
The people in this community drive past these neighborhoods every day without ever getting off the freeway. They are equally myopic in that they choose to limit their world view to only see the things that appeal to them. It’s easy to avoid the hood; you just don’t go there. You look at your cell phone while sitting at a red light instead of the homeless man standing there with a sign asking for help. It isn’t race that separates us, its socioeconomic status and the inability to empathies with people and situations we know nothing about. Neither Darren or I have any good answers to fixing the situation. Possibly just the fact that we are able to frame the question is a good first step.
The soccer game is winding down and kids are starting to get tired. We start to put lids on the food and clean up as people are thinking about going home. The sun was strong today with a high UV index. With my fair skin I had to reapply sun block to prevent a burn. Darren’s black skin protected him yet his wife is as fair as I am so she wore a fashionable sun hat. My wife plays with his daughter’s beautiful naturally curly hair.