I was an asshole today.
Old Fig Garden is my neighborhood. Sure, I live on the outskirts, and the crime in my area is a little more prevalent, the people a little grittier, but, Old Fig Garden is where I live, and have done so for the past 9 out of 10 years.
Old Fig Garden is a place where people of color, black people especially, are seldom seen. People of color are typically just passing through, via the heartbeat of the neighborhood, Van Ness Avenue, commonly known as Christmas Tree Lane, a hub for recreational walkers, runners, cyclists, and holiday light enthusiasts (for my money, it is the prettiest street in the city). It's a place where the Sheriff's department will check in on you to make sure you are okay, clearly because they care, not because you are a brown man running at night. They will shine their lights on you for seemingly no reason at all, and drive eerily slow as if they recognize you from a crime that was committed in the neighborhood recently. It's a place where the neighbors have never (as of July 5th, 2017) said so much as "hello" to me during the daylight hours, but, have done so routinely after dark, a move that is usually preceded or followed by a movement of fright -- be it a jump, shuffle, or The Look (people of color know the look I am talking about).
Old Fig Garden has a long history of being an insulated hub for crotchety bigots, a fact that is documented historically, and one that most assuredly continues today.
I both love and resent the area I live in. I take the good with the bad. It's a great place to run when the weather is raunchy hot, like today's weather. For the shade is like currency when your goal is to reach 200 miles in a month, and time is of the essence.
Which brings us to today.
I was following a route that I have taken many times over the years (quite literally hundreds), when my routine was broken up, as usual, by a dog that is off leash. It was a Yorkie, and it really did not like the fact that I was running near it's home. I get it, territory. I can relate to that. I stopped running, and asked the white woman in her front yard to "please leash your dog," for, at this point it was biting at the front of my shoes, and clearly agitated.
She looked at me in a way that made me feel as though I had done something wrong. Like, my presence alone was bothering her. The Look. I'm sure it had something to do with the dog barking, but, she gave no verbal admonishment to the little guy, and seemed more discontent with me being there, on her street, Sunset Avenue, one that runs adjacent to Van Ness (Rialto and Van Ness area where it splits) than anything that the dog was doing. I clap down at the dog to shoo it off my feet, which works, and I begin running away.
The dog starts barking and following again.
The woman blurts out, "Rosie!"
I keep running.
The dog keeps following me, barking.
I keep running.
The woman, with a little more urgency in her tone, shouts again, "Rosie! Rosie come here!" The "come here" part was slightly labored, as if she was now moving to catch up to the dog.
It hits me that I am involved in a real time social experiment.
I continue running, Rosie continues following, barking. When I abandoned my run for a dog that was off leash and attacking me, there was no attempt made to rectify the situation, only The Look, one that people of color are used to receiving. One that they give the help, the gardener, the poor kid in line at Target, the brown person running in their insulated neighborhood. When Rosie was barking at me, and biting my shoes, it was none of your business. Now? Well, now, your dog Rosie is none of mine.
No joke, this goes on for close to half a mile, before the woman's voice goes from slightly labored, to full-on frantic. In the distance, she is screaming now, "Rosie Stop! Rosie Stop!" over and over again, as Rosie and I cut the corner from Rialto onto Van Ness. Out of sight, and inching further away, I can here the woman yelling, with what sounded like tears in her eyes. I felt bad. How could you not? I did not stop. Finally the woman yells, "Please stop running!" Please stop running!"
I. Did. Not. Stop. Running.
Rosie eventually turned around, faded back. I don't know for sure, because my focus was on MY OWN business, and I was not about to help that lady with her struggle.
Do I regret not stopping? I'm not sure yet.
The conditions were on MY terms, I had the power, and she was forced to deal with it.
Perhaps people of privilege need a few more Rosie's in their life?
I was an asshole today. I am not so far gone that I don't realize that fact.