Wednesday, February 19, 2014

day 164 : that time i {correctly?} stereotyped a girl on the bus

happy wednesday!
you guys, it was 43* here yesterday! its 14* now & they are saying we could get anywhere from 6 to 12 inches of snow tomorrow..
the snow is beautiful & when it melts, it will be great for the crops, land and lakes ; but right now, i think most of us in minnesota are ready for spring.

yesterday, i was on the bus and i had an 'experience.' im not sure it counts as a random act of kindness {i dont think it does} ; but i am going to count it, because this is my blog ;)

no pictures today, but i think its a story we can all relate to : 

i live in minneapolis ; no doubt, the most diverse city in minnesota. i am from small towns in both iowa & minnesota ; where both are seriously lacking in cultural experiences & education. i moved to a large city so i could have experiences in different cultures.
and while i live in minneapolis & see different faces, hear different languages, ect ; i am still pretty sheltered.
the neighborhood i live in, is one of the safest & wealthiest in the city. i dont know the actual figures, but i am guessing that 98% of the population in my neighborhood is upper-class white folks who own 2-3 cars and speak english.
there are parts of south minneapolis {my neighborhood is in south mpls} that are diverse {native american, hispanic, somali}, but my neighborhood is not.
when you cross over to the north side of minneapolis ; there are lots of assumptions and stereotypes that happen. a lot of folks think of the north side as rundown, dangerous and full of 'black kids in gangs.' the city has done a really great job of developing the south side ; bike trails, community gardens, lots of food co-ops, ect. but we still think of the north side as dirty, dangerous and run-down. there are a lot of organizations working to change that, but it will take years beyond that to reshape our thoughts and stereotypes.

so where does my story start? 
i was on the bus yesterday, coming home from a great meeting {hi marta!}
{side note : i love the bus. i would much rather be on the bike ; but i really enjoy our bus system}
i was sitting towards the back of the bus ; there was a guy sitting in the last row and i was a few seats away.
this young girl {16-ish?} comes flying over to him, shouting and making a fuss.
{a huge bus system that reaches all neighborhoods in the twin cities {500,000 people} ; there is always somebody yelling and making a fuss}
she sits down next to me, talking to him ; a little defensive, a little panicked.
she looks at me and says 'let me have your phone.' 
i shake my head and she rephrases, 'i need to use a phone for something.' 
i told her that i wouldnt give her my phone, but i could look something up for her.
we go back and forth and she says she needs to write her friend on facebook. {i am assuming she was writing her about where // when she would be off the bus}
i was super apprehensive to let her use my phone. finally, i gave it to her, but never let her out of my sight.

i have been replaying the encounter in my head a lot since i got off the bus {with my phone}
i consider myself pretty laid back & extremely liberal. i consider myself really open-minded and respectful of other cultures. but i grew up in communities where it is normal & accepted to be a little {a lot?} racist. i have heard hundreds of racist jokes and come from places where using the n-word isn't always followed by 'oh my gosh, that is not okay!'

i was well-aware that the girl appeared 'brash' and the guy she was talking to seemed 'thuggish.'
i was well-aware that i looked like a 'fancy white person, bussing to the rich neighborhood with a fancy-ass iphone.'
i was well-aware that i run a kindness movement and to share a story about my stereotypes // insecurities makes me seem like a jerk.
i was well-aware that 'apple picking' {a new scam where people ask to use your phones, assault you & steal your phone} has become a growing trend in minneapolis.
i was well-aware that i attempted to have empathy for this girl. she needed to get ahold of her friend and needed to use a phone. if i was in the situation, i would hope that someone would help me out.
i was well-aware that i 'took stock' of her face, features and what she was wearing, in case i had to make a police report.

so, what does this mean?
am i racist? {the kids are black, i am white}
am i an asshole?
was a i just being cautious?
would i have reacted the same way if the kids were asian, or somali or WHITE?
was i watching the girl like a hawk because i was afraid of her or because she held something of value?{i dont really care about the phone ; i care about the 1,700 photos on there}

whats the moral of this story?
i am not sure.
i would like to think that i am a nice person ; willing to help someone out when they need it.
i also think that while i am open-minded and consider myself pretty accepting, i have fears and stereotypes ; just like everybody else.
does it make me a bad person to be cautious?

i would love to hear any stories, thoughts or opinions you have.
has something like this happened to you? have you ever been in a situation where you have felt uncomfortable and realized that you have deep-rooted assumptions // stereotypes?


  1. Girl, I would have done the exact same thing - I don't care WHO is asking, I'm not going to just hand over my phone to some random person! I don't think you were a jerk at all. :)

  2. Well well well, this is always a tough one. However, if a white teenage girl demanded using my phone, I definitely wouldn't let her use it. Without being in the moment with you I'm not sure what I would have done. But I think you made the right choice. You were on a moving bus, so its not like she could have out run you or something.

  3. I think that's such a hard situation. I'm super suspicious of people in public who ask me to do stuff like that (in China people wanna see my passport because they're curious). It's hard to balance being a good person and protecting your stuff, ya know? I think I would have done the same thing, but I would have had the same issues you did.