I grew up in a pretty much all white town in Northern Massachusetts. So I never thought much about racism. I understood the concept, but never actually had to apply it in real life. Boston is pretty much all white, too (or was back when I lived there and the parts of Boston I went to).
So when I moved to LA, I all of a sudden understood what racism was. Because I was constantly being biased against by OTHER populations. I’d go to Chinatown and get glared at. I’d drive a little too far east from USC’s campus and get glared at. It was very strange to me, and for the 14+ years I’ve lived here, I’ve come to understand the dynamics of racial profiling and racism in Los Angeles.
I would never go back to a homogenous society, as there are way too many benefits to living in a city with such a diverse population (namely, the food choices), but today was an interesting day where I really explored my personal interactions with various populations.
Now, I have explored this theme before with my discussion on how different ethnic groups use cycling for various purposes, as well as my attempt to not racially profile and helped a bike thief. So this isn’t a new topic, but one that keeps re occuring.
This will be a long post, so I suppose it’s mostly for me. No one reads long posts with no pictures, so ..uhh moving on.
I purchased a nice greasy lunch today and drove over to Griffith Park to eat in the natural surroundings of the highway traffic. While shoveling fries into my mouth, I heard someone call my name. I turn around and it’s my friend Benzo, on his bike about to ride the park. One of my memories of Benzo is his complaining that there are no latinos riding nice road bikes – they are all on crappy bikes for work commuting purposes. Now, my friend is an adorable latino, and I made a joking comment about that today (I forget what I said, but roughly how he is the only latino in LA on a nice road bike).
Leaving the park, I run over some kind of rock thing in the road. I don’t think about it, and get on the freeway.
Well, it’s hard to describe, but driving on half the freeways in Los Angeles FEELS like you have a flat tire. So I was driving on the 110 West, wondering if I had a flat, when a guy pulls up next to me and starts honking his horn, gesturing towards my car. Well, that answers that. Thank you, good samaritan, for pointing that out!!
I pull off the highway, thinking I would just take a right off the exit and immediately pull over. I take a right, go to pull over…. and then…. KEEP GOING.
I’ve never been off this exit before, but this stretch of the 110 runs through gang land/bad land territory. I had almost pulled next to a dilapitated house with an overgrown yard, complete with pitbull drinking out of a bucket. Fuck that!
I keep going, my rim groaning against the pavement, and I see a gas station. Salvation??
Drive into the gas station, hop out of my car and look at the mess that was a tire. Two homiez drive up and laugh at me. One goes “Look across the street! You can get your tire fixed!”
A car repair shop, right across the street!
I thank the homeboys, who had that look of ‘silly white girl! hahahah!’ and take my groaning car across the street. Fuck you, rim – I’ll pay to get you replaced, I’m NOT hanging out around here to wait for AAA.
I pull into a car repair shop that looks like it probably processes stolen cars. I get out of my car and identify someone who can assist, and wait while he gets a tire. One of the mexican doods standing around comes up and says ‘do not leave this area’. I was like ‘trust me, I have NO intention of taking more than five steps away from my car’. We chatted for a bit, nice guys, but they seemed concerned about me being in this neighborhood. Especially with my Pepperdine University hoodie. Trust me, I wasn’t there by choice, but by chance.
Other patrons come and go – I can see that this is a neighborhood place – everyone knows each other. It was kinda cool, actually. Most gave me strange looks, a few dirty looks. Sorry that I wasn’t born with more melatonin in my skin. Yeesh.
I actually think that reverse racism is more at play here in LA than what people think. I have been biased against by asians and black people, ridiculously. Fortunately, the Armenians think I’m one of them, or a half-Armenian. It’s the Hispanic population that lives and lets live. I fucking love the Hispanic population and I don’t care that they are the largest growing demographic. They have strong family values and a good work ethic. Viva.
So this car repair shop is run by a bunch of latinos, the one who was working with me was pretty cute.
I have recently been fighting with Mazda about a slew of car problems (my car only has 39k miles.. ridiculous the problems I am having) and they have been trying to take advantage of me.
Yet here I am, in the middle of badlands, a stranded white chick, and these guys totally could have asked ridiculous money and I would have paid, just to escape. They did not take advantage of me, treated me respectfully and promptly fixed my car. I was back on the freeway in under 25 minutes.
I’d like to think that I don’t racially profile people, but of course I do. We all do. I spent a majority of my 20s focusing on stereotypes (although in a subcultural way), but stereotyping is roughly the same as racially profiling.
At the end of the day, people are people, with hearts, emotions, needs and wants. Be courteous, smile, and try to remember that, I suppose.