Yesterday, my friend Steve and I had arranged to have supper together at a local restaurant. Steve needed to stop at the local hospital first to pick up some medication. I dropped him off at the entrance and then parked my car.
As I entered the hospital, it became clear that some new procedures had been introduced. Walking directly to the pharmacy was no longer an option. I now needed to stop at a security center and present identification——Government Issued.
My friend was not happy with this new rule. He was demanding to speak to a supervisor.
At this point, I am mildly humored by the whole scene.
After a few minutes, the head of security arrived. For about 3 minutes, Steve talked (actually it might be best described as yelling) about how stupid this new rule is and that the hospital should spend money on more important things.
Again, it is kind of funny to watch Steve when he is angry.
Once Steve was finished with his tirade, the security guy responded.
(You need to know that we are at a typical city center hospital, about eight blocks from where I live.)
“This particular hospital,” he told us, “is located in the worst neighborhood in Denver. The crime rate is seven times the national average. Gangs infest the neighborhood.”
Then, he made a statement that set me off: “No responsible parent would dare raise a family in this neighborhood.”
I have no hard evidence one way or the other about the statistics this guy was spewing, but I do not think of myself as an irresponsible parent.
It was clear that this guy did not live in the area, nor had he spent much time exploring the neighborhood.
Where was this paranoia coming from?
Why do we fear urban communities?
Why do we assume the worst of urban people?
I wanted to scream at this guy: “TAKE THE TIME TO GET TO KNOW THE NEIGHBORHOOD! WE ARE NOT BAD PEOPLE NOR ARE WE A BUNCH OF THIEVES.”
The parents I know here are just like parents in other neighborhoods. They want their kids to grow up and be responsible members of society.
It takes courage to lay aside our fear of that which is different.
As humans it seems that we have a natural bent towards sameness. It is comfortable.
When our family moved from the suburbs to the city, opening ourselves to different experiences and people, our comfort was challenged. As we confronted our fear of “different” we found a new kind of comfort.
Difference isn’t bad, it is just different.
Finding comfort in difference is a good first step in erasing prejudice based on fear and stereotypes.