photo via Unsplash

Yes, I actually may rob you…

Recently (or so I hope), there has been this awe sweeping idea that everywhere I am, crime is most likely to be there too — or at least that’s what the body language of San Francisco has been telling me. I’ve officially moved to San Francisco, updated my official place of residence, and even got a new license to reflect this status. Unfortunately, San Francisco hasn’t welcomed me with open arms. Nope, not for a bleeding second.

Let’s be clear: San Francisco isn’t one of those cities where people say, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” It’s more along the lines of, “If you can make it here, you’re probably out of your mind.” With ever-rising rents, unreliable public transportation, streets covered in feces, and overpriced coffee you would think the people here would be a little more welcoming, right? Well, it’s just not the case. And it gets even worse if you don’t fit in.

To be clear, if you’re a minority or person of color, you’re nearly shit out of luck (as my mom would say). Let me chronicle this last point a little more…

20.

This is the number of times I’ve been denied access to something that I already have access to — in San Francisco. For example: my building, the alleyway to my building, my bike rack, my bike (with my lock on it), an Uber that I’ve paid for, the grocery aisle where the broccoli lives, and the list goes on.

I get it, we’re all wired through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and control happens to be the edifice this entire concept sits upon. I’ve grown to understand that when people are denying me access to my own belongings and self it is their own attempt at controlling the situation; thus, fulfilling the second tier of Maslow: safety.

Denying me is clearly a safety precaution for many here in San Francisco.

I began to ask myself: WTF is going on?

But…if you look at these same set of situations through the lens of history we can narrow this down to a simple phenomenon: racial bias.

Racial bias is alive and brewing more than ever as I’m now in San Francisco. This racial bias towards me is a negative one to say the least. And when there is a negative bias towards anyone, organism, or the like: it leads to extinction. And with that in mind, my people (black people) are nearly going extinct in San Francisco. The first stage of extinction, on a human level, is the denial of your existence. You begin to feel lonely and then loneliness consumes you.

In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms (taxon), normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point. — Wikipedia

New York Times has already begun to release think pieces on The Loneliness of Being Black in San Francisco. Spoiler: only 5% of the city’s population is made up of black people/African-Americans. This group has declined 10% over the last decade in San Francisco.

Let’s recollect on some thoughts here:

  • I may or may not exist to other people in San Francisco because I am Black.
  • When I am denied access to certain things it is merely a safety precaution masking for control.
  • Black people are soon to be extinct in San Francisco aka not enough Black people in San Francisco.

I’m starting to believe that people have this fascination centered around the pretext of control. They think denying me access to this will discourage me to not participate in that, thus, putting them in control of the situation. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know I was such a nefarious character. I didn’t know my 5'10 average stature would be this intimidating — but I guess this isn’t for me to decide.

Before you make a blind assumption on who’s been denying me, I’ll make it easy for you — no, it’s not just white people.

To this day, I’m pretty sure the security guards at my building still don’t believe I actually live here. Their continued effort to pull in the doors whenever I’m approaching the building confirms my assumption that they’ve been trained to believe Black people can’t afford to have nice things nor could they ever afford to live here. Oh, and all of my security guards are Black and Latino.

I’m pretty sure the Black security at the grocery store confused me with someone else, again. I’m pretty sure he was just doing his job — following me around the store, even on the aisle where the good broccoli lives (inside joke). I was a criminal in his eyes until he saw me pay for my food. But I’m pretty sure that’s how most grocery stores work, right?

And I’m most definitely sure my neighbors think I’m the delivery guy as they always ask me if I need to buzzed up to a certain floor. Unless all delivery guys look the exact same and they just keep forgetting I actually live here.

But there’s a method to this madness

Self-loathing and years (centuries) of internalized-racism is a short-long explanation of why my own ethnic group discriminates against me. From an early age we’re taught to associate with having money with safety. We’re taught to grow with our levels of internalized oppression. Taught to deal with the stereotypes placed upon us. Whether you believe it or not, the lasting affects of slavery are still upon us.

It keeps us shackled to an idea someone else has about our worth and tells us we are wrong to feel human, that we are not equal, and that we are, in fact, nothing but a hog being fattened up for the kill. — Logan Lynn

This explains why my own race can see me as a predator and not their peer. I’m viewed as their neighborhood dope dealer instead of their neighborhood businessman. This is the same thought that permeates the minds of those who have denied me in the past. Creating a false sense of security has now made its way to minds of my own people — black people. Nevertheless, I empathize with them. People lean towards safety and the pretext of denying me is the foundation of that. The fear of losing their job is very real. The fear of not being able to provide for themselves and their familes, is very real. For the idea of doing what you’re told is always easier than doing what’s right — especially when it involves serious discernment.

I just hope we can reach a point where the concept of policing blackness isn’t our first and last option.

Alas, maybe I’m a sheep.

As I keep following their lead and I haven’t said anything in response to any of the people I’ve come across. Currently my forms of “resistance” are:

  • When I’m followed in the store, I make sure to stay a little while longer just to make ’em tired.
  • When the door is closed in my face at my own apartment building, I just scan my key and walk in with a smile.
  • When my neighbors ask if I need to buzzed to a certain floor, I just use my own access card to get home.

Yeah, that’s not going to work for me anymore. I’m here. I exist. And I will let you know when you’ve overstepped your bounds. I will let you know when “doing your job” is racist and form of criminal profiling.

I’ll be sure to make you think before figuring any assumptions about me as you’ve done in times past.

And no, I will not rob you, but you will be left aware of your existence, too.