Last week in the apartment complex where I work, a kid shot a gun. Apparently, someone had showed up at his door and was screaming obscenities at his mom. I know his mom. She works as at the hospital, often working 12+ hour long shifts. She barely makes her rent payment.
I was prepared for the phone calls from residents, asking “What happened?”, “Is it safe?” etc.
I was not prepared for the “What are we (apartment management) going to do about it?”, “What can we (the apartment management) do to keep certain people out?” forceful questioning. In other words, when are we going to kick “those people” out?
I have lived long enough to see and experience prejudice. So, why was I unprepared for these more pointed comments and questions? Our apartments are located on a road that skirts Thomas Jefferson’s University. Tens of thousands of kids from all over the country compete to get into the few thousand slots to attend Jefferson’s University. The best of the best. This is what concerns me.
Emotion and in turn crime, does not follow specific groups of people. Fear makes people exaggerate. All of a sudden the one gunshot fired became gunshots. The dispute between 3 family members all of a sudden became a gang fight. Fear makes people want to keep out “those people”. Fear makes people want to control the uncontrollable.
I have lived in the rural southwest, where family members were drug dealers, therefore shootings and killings, although rare, occurred. I have lived in Boston, the working class areas north of Boston – Everett and Saugus where vehicles were stolen from the church parking lot. Now I live and work in Charlottesville, VA, voted the #1 city in America not too long ago. What occurred in my apartment complex is rare – even for this city. And despite that rarity people are asking “what are we doing to keep people out”? As a matter of fact as I’m typing this I was interrupted by a phone call – 6 days from when the incident occurred – from a father asking what are we going to do about “these people”.
These people. I believe that this fear can be turned toward change. Fear makes one selfish. How about instead of trying to intimidate an office staff threatening to break their lease if we don’t do something about “these people”, perhaps turn their attention toward a working-class mother who is desperately trying to make a better life for her children and see what they can do to help? A mother who was in our office crying for the mistakes of her son. A son who will not see daylight for about a month when his case is brought up. A mother who is crying and worried that the lawyer expenses are going to cut even more into her limited income? Can you imagine the change that could occur by trying to help in the smallest way? Even just a knock on her door telling her that we’re just thinking about her, we’re sorry to hear that she’s going through this?
Use your fear to change for the better, the positive. Using fear to give yourself evidence that you’re better than someone else, therefore distancing yourself and looking down your nose on the trials of others is for the weak, selfish and simple-minded.
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