Lisa Scheffer says look no further than our own backyard to learn that President Trump isn’t the only one who promotes vulgar stereotypes about fine places where decent people live and work.
My son is from a $#%@hole country. We have family there. I was, like so many others, outraged and offended when I heard a whole nation, made up of people whom I love, disparaged and reduced to its worst parts. But when the anger subsided, I realized how this kind of thinking is common. And to borrow a phrase, there is fault on both sides. I live in Richmond. It’s a once thriving industrial town that became troubled when the shipyards closed and the local economy collapsed. It’s full of immigrants and working-class people. There are also poor people and for many years, the city was majority Black. I moved here because I fell in love with Alvarado Park and for the living diversity we all celebrate.
In the Bay Area, one of the bluest parts of the bluest state in the country, it is considered a $#%@hole city. For years, we could not get services here. Once I contacted an online ride service whose drivers would go anywhere but Richmond. These drivers were primarily from the East Bay. No doubt some have Black Lives Matter signs in their windows, or are artists who drive as a day job.
And it’s not just Richmond that gets this treatment: I’ve heard people here disparage places like Alabama and Tennessee – places they’ve never been and say they’d never go – because in their eyes these are $#%@hole states. It’s fun to be outraged, and comments like the ones last week make it easy. But our values mean that we judge someone on the content of their character and not on the color of their skin, or how they vote or where they live.
Progress means self-reflection. It means seeing humanity in people and places that you fear. That doesn’t mean you deny problems exist, but that people are not classified and dismissed. It’s not easy. It means honesty and listening, and confronting your own preconceptions. Ask why you think some place is a $#%@hole, and then go see it for yourself. You might just fall in love.
With a Perspective, I’m Lisa Scheffer.
Lisa Scheffer is a writer and former family doctor, and longtime resident of Richmond.