Why have some Americans led such a sheltered existence?!


ghettoYup, it’s that time again. It’s time for me to make huge, sweeping generalizations about Americans.

In my defence, I should say that this is now post 38, and this is the first time (I think) I’ve bitched about Americans. This is good going compared to the last blog!

I just had a “NCNS”, which is the abbreviation for “No Call No Show” i.e. sex industry terminology for an asshole client who stands you up. Technically speaking, this particular asshole was only a “NS”, as he did finally deign to email me one hour after the session was due to start to tell me why he didn’t show up. I don’t know why he didn’t answer my calls, or let me know sooner. In the words of nearly every character on “Deadwood”: Cocksucker!

Anyway, here’s his pathetic excuse of an apology letter:

Wow – your area of town was just too spooky (dangerous-looking) for me. Sorry. I was really looking forward to our session.

I get really annoyed at such excuses because they are, for me at least, just another way of insinuating that all working class, African-Americans are going to rob, rape or murder you. Long before I ever moved to this area of town, it apparently was really dangerous for a white person to come over here but now? Jesus, you can’t avoid having your eyes assaulted by all the white yuppies who’re moving in and the nasty montrosities they build – which do not fit in aesthetically with the neighbourhood at all.

It’s true that only one block away there is a corner where’ll you find pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers, but turn another corner, and you’ll find a whole street of white yuppies. This neighbourhood obviously still has its gritty side, but by no stretch of the imagination can you call it “the ghetto”. It seems to me that only a very sheltered white person who has never been exposed to someone of a different social class, or race, could call it that.

That’s what puzzles me about the US. On the one hand, it is such a wonderfully diverse country (and I love, love, looooove this about it…in fact, it would be weird and boring to move back to “the motherland” for this very reason) but, on the other, you have all these people who’ve grown up here who just seem entirely clueless about how the other half lives. I just don’t get it.

When I was training to be a teacher, a fellow student of mine used to give me a ride home, and we actually became quite good friends over the months despite the fact that she was a self-confessed “Conservative Christian”! One time we were sitting in her car, chatting, with the window rolled down, when she saw a black guy walking past on the other side of the street. Damn, she couldn’t have rolled that bloody window up fast enough! I don’t know what she thought he was going to do, but he just walked on past, minding his own business, as I’m sure he was intending to all along.

She was convinced that I was about to be raped and murdered any second by a black man if I stayed in this part of town, and she said it reassured her that I had a big dog to look after me! This woman would confess to me that her greatest fear was being placed in a high needs school with a lot of minority children because she “just wouldn’t know how to relate to those people“. I actually found this woman’s attitudes funny because, well, I’m used to hanging around with liberal types who are probably racist in their own way, but who would just never admit it to themselves or others. It was refreshingly honest to hear somebody admit outright that they have prejudices and fears about other races. Also, this woman was a good person, deep down, so I couldn’t really fault her for fearing something to which she’d just never been exposed. Once she’s a teacher, I genuinely don’t believe she’ll discriminate against someone from another race/social class. She probably won’t understand their specific learning needs, but she wouldn’t intentionally try to screw them over.

Despite this, though, I just couldn’t help but think…Were you never curious about African-Americans? Did you never want to come over to this part of town to see what life was like here?

I don’t mean to glorify poverty, but I always want to live in a neighbourhood that’s slightly down-at-heel and working-class. Life in this part of town is big, glorious and messy, and I couldn’t imagine living in one of those weird, sterile suburbs middle-class people here seem to prefer. At Christmas time, I visited Midwestern Man’s family in their (yup, you’ve guessed it) Midwestern suburb, and I was bored out of my mind! There’s never anybody on the street, the lawns are always perfectly manicured….nothing ever happens!

The funny thing is that there’s probably loads happening inside…at least the fucked-up parts of this neighbourhood are out in the open for everybody to see. In those suburbs, though, you never see anything but how many women are getting beaten up behind those closed doors? How many alcoholics are they? How many sleazy fathers touching their wee girls? How many alienated, disturbed teenagers?

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5 thoughts on “Why have some Americans led such a sheltered existence?!

  1. Xul October 6, 2009 at 12:24 am Reply

    LOL Where I live would most assuredly be considered “The Ghetto.” There are only a handful of white people-mostly black Americans or black Caribbean folks. I’m so used to it that a couple months back when I was in a supermarket in a mostly white area I felt totally uncomfortable and out of place!

  2. Reluctant Blogger October 6, 2009 at 4:21 am Reply

    I live in the UK’s last “white city” so it is not so very diverse here either and the Normal for Norfolks do tend to have a rather smalltown mentality. Strangely it was actually more culturally diverse where I lived in Wales, and I don’t just mean because of the Welsh.

    I think that is one of the reasons I miss London so much. Partly it is my love of being invisible but yes, it is the cultural mix and the ability to wander from one type of neighbourhood to another in minutes. Last year when I went to London and was feeling sad I spent hours wandering around some of the rougher areas of East London, it was stupid really but these places are not as dangerous as people think and I actually love to walk brazenly through places.

    I find the conservative Christians difficult to handle though. I don’t think I would have had your patience and understanding.

  3. pandabox33 October 6, 2009 at 5:37 am Reply

    AH! Where I live is a white ghetto considered dangerous and weird by white people !! It’s true that when I moved here there were police pursuits, couples fighting at 3 in the morning, I was afraid to get out after 9. Well, I did get followed…by a white man.
    Some of my friends have led a very sheltered life. I love where I live, it’s now quiet, I have huge trees in front of my house, I can hear birds in the morning, we have parks and schools. So what if most of the people in my block live on welfare.

  4. yogurtry October 6, 2009 at 8:32 am Reply

    Sterile, strict covenant protected suburban neighborhoods are claustrophobic, at best. At worst, they promote a group think plot to subversively broadcast the message to people of color, “You don’t look like us. We don’t want you.” The gated communities really bug me. Are they keeping unsavory folk out? Or keeping their residents barricaded in against finding out how the rest of the world lives?

  5. LazyBuddhist October 8, 2009 at 3:43 pm Reply

    I mulled this issue a couple weeks back in my own blog. While my natural tendency is to think that people who choose not to move far beyond their lilly white suburbs racist, but actually knowing people like that, I’m not so quick to paint them with that brush. I think, to some extent, we fear what we don’t know. And when we have no personal experience of something we tend to rely on other people’s or the media’s accounts. So, what do we see or hear in the media about African-Americans? You don’t hear much about the every day workin’ folks, or the good decent people who may be stuck in poverty. No, we about all the problems and the crime. So, is it any wonder these poor isolated schmucks are filled with fear?

    Like you, I love living in diverse area. Being stuck for any length of time in a lilly white suburb starts to creep me out.

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