Until recently it never occurred to me I might experience forms of prejudice and/or discrimination not related to my sexuality. It’s something I’ve never really paid attention to before but I’m starting to pay attention to it now. In the process, I’ve learned I have my ow biases. I’ve been accused of being young, and apparently young people are pretty horrible.
The City of Logan tried to pass some ridiculous legislation several years ago, which involved reclaiming parking spots the city had created the decade before by turning them into large patches of grass. I’m not too clear on the details of the legislation (so correct me if I get it wrong) but the details are beside the point. What’s important is they were attempting to take away my parking spot (the one at my house where I lived at the time) and make me pay to park on the street. Yeah, right! They also wanted to prevent homeowners from putting in parking spots on their own land.
As you can imagine, a lot of people were upset. Where should we park? How much would it cost to park on the street? And why should we even have to pay to park on the street? I went to the neighborhood planning meetings in protest.
At these neighborhood planning meetings, it seemed pretty difficult to keep anyone over the age of 50 from speaking up against their neighbors. From the sounds of it, their neighbors were pretty horrible. They didn’t set their trash cans out on the roadside for pickup; they just let them sit, collect garbage, and the garbage rotted and festered. If they managed to get their garbage to the street in time for pickup, they didn’t take it off the street after it was picked up; they just let it sit there. They also didn’t clean up any garbage that spilled out during the time it sat on the windy roadside. The streets were a mess. Their neighbors also went to bed at 2:00 in the morning. Before going to bed, they spent their time yelling, screaming, dancing, and partying in the streets keeping everyone awake. And sometimes they didn’t even go to bed. From the way they talked, it also sounded like their neighbors were in a rock band: they described constant drum-beating, scream-singing, pounding, guttering, and on and on.
And then it all started to make sense. “We don’t want college students living in our neighborhood!” they would protest. And their protests confused me. I lived in the same neighborhood. It was almost always quiet, aside from the occasional screaming baby next door. I almost always took my garbage out on time and almost always brought it back in when I got home from work or school the same day. I rarely stayed up past midnight and my Casio synthesizer couldn’t hardly be responsible for the ruckus. They couldn’t really be complaining about me, could they? Yes. All college students suck. “We don’t want them living in our neighborhood!”
Fast forward a few years. An older, grey-haired man, knowing nothing about me and my friends, tells us we’re irresponsible, good-for-nothing’, rule-breakin’, bleepers. Not just me, and not just my friends. All college students.
It’s difficult to sit there and take it when someone berates you and your friends publicly for no other reason than you’re young, having fun, and within appropriate bounds. It makes your blood boil and makes you want to give it right back. That was the moment I realized I have biases of my own to work out — the moment I held my tongue and walked away. I’ll spare you from reading what I was thinking.
I’m glad I held my tongue. It’s given me a chance to process that experience in the private spaces of my own mind. The lesson I learned is lashing out, no matter which side of the fence you’re on, doesn’t make the situation better. In fact, it makes the situation worse. My words against your words, and your words against my words.
What makes the situation better? I don’t know. It’s hard to know because lashing out is the easiest thing to do. It feels like you’re winning at the time. But when all is said and done, the other party is more settled on their opinion of you: had I lashed out, I would have confirmed everything he believes about college students, and he would have confirmed everything I believe about old people.