Ms. Stone, M.Ed.
9 June 2011
South Central: A Constant Skirmish of Assumptions
I wasn’t born in South Central LA, but I’ve been raised here since the fourth grade. I was born in Santa Monica, a whole different world compared to South Central Los Angeles.
In Santa Monica, you don’t hear shooting every night and you don’t struggle with purse snatching and car stealing individuals. You know everyone in your neighborhood and you are constantly greeted with “Hello’s” and “Good afternoons.”
But, in my society where I live now, you’re immune to certain things of certain natures. You don’t flinch every time you here a gun shot, you get used to seeing rude people brushing past you with a look of disgust as they pass you by. It’s a day-to-day struggle but it’s hard trying to challenge the stereotypes blacks are given. Being black in my community is a hassle. In South Central every black person is seen as “ghetto”, as though we have no common sense, no manners, and as if we aren’t human like everyone else, but we are, we are humans; we are strong and we are intelligent.
Blacks are often criminalized; and it makes me cringe on the inside knowing day-by-day another African American/black is being victimized because of the color of his/her skin. Will the world ever realize that we aren’t all the same? Or will these stereotypes and rude judgments just be systematically carried on to the next generation? Often times on the news you hear about another murder, another gang infliction, or maybe even just a high speed chase and immediately people perceive it as “just another black person.” I’m tired of walking down the street to see that every homeless person on the corner is black; every crackhead or drunk by the liquor store is loud and obnoxious; then in others eyes we are all just “ghetto” people in a “ghetto” community.
Most blacks seem to just desensitize themselves to certain judgmental characteristics they are perceived to be, but it’s not that easy to me, because I see potential and because I know our community is so much more than just this “ghetto” hell hole full of rude black people. I choose to show “them” different. How dare they call us “ghetto”? The audacity they have to compare us to a thickly populated area peopled essentially by members of a racial or other minority group, often as an outcome of social or financial restrictions, pressures, or suffering. Yes, we aren’t the most financially stable community around, and yes, we do have projects that consist of low income minorities; but our community as a whole is not all distressed, so how can they categorize us as “ghetto”?
Samuel Seward, a writer from Helium.com, draws attention to the well-known movie Boys in the Hood, says, “The film, Boys in the Hood, portrays African Americans as villains where killing and violence is an everyday occurrence in the ghetto.” To him, this renders a extensive view on black culture in L.A and percolate the deliberation that blacks are militant, and that accusation just isn’t true. The movie shows one of the characters, Ricky, as an aspiring football star and a teen father striving to get into college. In doing so he later gets shot. This continues the stereotype that African Americans are centered along violence.
But, according to Kevin Williams, the media isn’t the only ones who view us as violent or vehement. He says, “Being black in this society is nothing but problems, everywhere you turn your being harassed or accused and every time it’s something different.” As he goes on telling me stories about different incidents I become more and more amazed at how this civilization of even my kind, blacks, have become massively invulnerable to the nonsense and well known stereotypes given through diverse broadcasting. Kevin states, “It goes as far as even company employers upholding these labels. I went in for an interview for a job last month and the boss looked me up and down and the first question he asked was are you gang affiliated and have you ever been to jail, like that’s the outline of every African American male, to be wild and inconsiderate”
A memory of my childhood blisters me with deep incisions every time I deliberate the things the media exposes us to be. It was November of 2004, my mother, my sister and I had just moved in this neighborhood, on 94th and Broadway, in a peach and green apartment and to me everything seemed, to me, so strange. As I walked up the rock plated stairs that lead up to our new door, I counted “1, 2, 3, 4…” and swayed my head side to side by way of dancing. I was so excited to be in a different place and to meet different friends, until this new environment didn’t appear to be so new.
The next day me and my mom woke up early to go shopping for the house, but before we got started we had stopped by the liquor store right down the street from the house. We enter the store and the bell rang “Ding Dong”. At the counter stood a tall man draped in a sheet like shirt that draped around his head and only showed the center of his face. “May I have that candy right there please!” I said with a smile and waited for his response. With a shock look he questioned “Did you say may I?” “Not, let me get . . . Or gimmie dat?” and in second I paused; puzzled and un comprehensive to what he was referring to. Now, as I’m older and more aware, I am well competent of what he was trying to say.
Now, in my head, I mutter, was I not “ghetto” enough for him? Was it just too astounding to him that I didn’t speak improper English or slang? African Americans have come a long way, and to see us get stuck in the illusion of being “ghetto” is an outrage. Some blacks do have etiquette or “class”. Not every black person has been to jail or have a career in being a felonious. Although, we are realized to be all of these things we are so much more. We are inventors, doctors, lawyers and even comedians, as well as so much more. Our color doesn’t determine our actions, individuals and self-pride do. Those that are rude, unknowing, and ill-mannered choose to be. And other entities, like me, choose to be and do something in life. I PLAN to be an outcast; I WILL eliminate myself from these stereotypes; I REFUSE to be a part of this picture the media constantly paints for blacks. Ralph Waldo Emerson quotes, “Knowledge comes by eyes always open and working hands; and there is no knowledge that is not power.” And I WILL have the strength of knowledge.