Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Scary People

This is a topic I've been thinking about a lot in the months (almost a year!) since we moved back to San Francisco. I'd appreciate any further ideas you all have on the topic.

Sometimes at park day when I'm chatting with other moms, someone will throw in a comment about what parks they don't like to go to because there are "too many scary people there." I've been struggling with this comment, and how to respond. See, I don't like to think in terms of "scary people" anymore. What is a scary person? What makes him or her scary? Blue hair? Too many piercings? A big scowl on the face? Drinking out of a paper bag? What exactly is scary about these people?

When we moved back to San Francisco, I realized I still had some (probably a lot) of residual racism left in me. When I saw a group of black or Mexican men standing together, I got anxious as I had to pass them. That has to go, I thought to myself. I've never been assaulted by a group like that, or anyone. Until I am being assaulted, I am not going to be afraid. Hey, they are people, and I am going to assume they are congregating for the same reason I congregate with my friends--for companionship.

This has been a liberating concept for me. One thing I really realized while watching Roots (we just watched it as a family--I had never seen it before, except for small snippets I saw when I came out of my bedroom as a kid and found my parents watching) is that all this racism didn't just hurt black people. It hurt their white owners, because they lived in constant fear of rebellion, especially after some slaves started the rebellion. When we treat people badly, we do have to be afraid of them, because of the possibility of retaliation. (Ooh, global ramifications to this too....)

One recent issue at stake, that I've been trying to sort through and filter through my new ideology.....our formerly homeless friend Mark got out of prison on Sunday. I don't want to see him. I have talked with him on the phone, and I guess I've come around a little.

Before Mark went to prison, he was very controlling of Sheri. He was always trying to get her to do what he thought she should do. He has hurt her physically a couple of times. Sheri did sometimes just take off, and Mark would storm all over the neighborhood, to all her haunts looking for her, and once when he came to our place looking for her he uttered the words "when I find her, I'm going to kill her." I was very afraid for Sheri that night. Paul actually went looking for her too, just to warn her about Mark.

While he was in prison, he wrote us letters in which he was vaguely threatening. He blamed us because Sheri said she wanted to break up with him. He thought we told her to break up with him. Seems he can't conceive of Sheri doing something without someone telling her to. He was angry with us, and I was annoyed with him for being angry.

When I realized he'd get out of prison on Sunday, and Paul would be gone most of the day--to church and then he did a baptism--I realized I didn't want to open the door to Mark without Paul being there. Mark had his stuff shipped to us when he went into prison, and he wanted it back. I was somewhat afraid of him because of his threatening letters. I decided I would not open the door if he came while Paul was not here. But I also realized that in addition to a small amount of fear, I also feel a need to "show him" that his behavior is not acceptable. I need to punish him because what he did wasn't appropriate.

I partly feel justified, both in being afraid of Mark and of feeling the need to punish him. But as I've worked through it, I've realized that what I'm doing is cutting him off from someone who is on Mark's side, someone he can receive support from. He doesn't need a whole lot of talking from me, but he does enjoy the meals I cook. Paul is good at talking to him, trying to work him through the frenetic energy he gets and calm him down to figure out the best next step to take.

I didn't have to figure out what to do with Mark on Sunday, because he didn't show up--he had other things he wanted to do before he came over here. Maybe when he does come over I'll let him stay for dinner.

1 comment:

Libby said...

Interesting thoughts.

I think that our reactions to certain type people are there for a reason, and if we can think through them, be wiser. Right now I find bottle blond semi-big hair woman to be scary, and I quiver when I see a white quy in a white shirt with a tie! Why? Cuz I know that those people will look down on me as being less worthy as they, and treat me accordingly.
In my younger days, a group of mexician men would typically mean that I was about to be oogled and given cat calls. Now, with two young boys, I think I'm safe from that harrassment. :)
However, I do think that if there is a fear of physical harm from an individual - that is based on that person's past, you would be wise to listen and act accordingly. Has Mark ever hit Sheri? If so, DO NOT BE ALONE with him! By all means, be a friend, but if Paul isn't around, be smart.
and that is my 2 cents worth. :)