Favorite

Prejudice and hope 

The Observer desperately needs to relocate. Saturday morning we came upon a building that looked promising. The sign out front proclaimed "Now Leasing," with an arrow to the office. We strolled up to this high-ceiling joint, eager to scout a refurbished glimpse of "historic Little Rock." What we got was an unwelcome glimpse of history repeating itself.

The Observer has spent a few months howling in frustration over a bullying landlord. But in that overcast morning just across the freeway from Central High, we were reminded of how many people face incessant, systemic bullying every day. And because we, as witnesses, often sidestep these incidents, we are all complicit.

At the lovely apartments that we can no longer fathom leasing, the office was closed but the contractor was available. He's a large white guy in a large white truck, and he was happy to show us around. He took us through at least four apartments, proudly detailing amenities. He would have given us an even more extensive tour, but we were eager to get on with our search, and there was another man who showed up with questions. We thanked Mr. Contractor and said, "We'll get out of your hair so you can help this guy." We were a few steps away when we heard the man say, "I'd like to see the apartments and talk to someone about leasing," and Mr. Contractor said, "I'm sorry, I can't help you. You'll have to come back Monday." Nor did he offer the name and number of the leasing agent, the way that he did for us.

The Observer and co. were stunned. Maybe Mr. Contractor didn't want to spend his Saturday giving tours, but then, why did he have more time for us than we for him? What was the difference between us and the next guy? Well first off, the "next guy" was a man (who frankly appeared better-heeled than The Observer), and second of all, he was black. We were two young white women. So if The Observer and co. were given preferential treatment on account of either/or, that's creepy. And had this occurred in the presence of the leasing agent rather than the contractor, that's illegal. Our tour hadn't felt like a come-on. It seemed like Mr. Contractor genuinely hoped to interest us in the apartments, which leads us to the conclusion that certain races will be more welcome than others at this complex.

So this icky thing happened, and The Observer and co. didn't know what to do. We wanted to confront the contractor, but we didn't want to embarrass the other man. So we, in fact, did nothing. And we carried the weight of that nothingness, making our way home, our scouting appetite squelched, muddling over why, and when will it change, and how should we have responded?

Every day The Observer does things we regret and would rather not share. But as recent transplants and frequent, stupefied witnesses to similarly flavored events, The Observer and co. would almost argue that public shaming is the best way to convince people that hey, this isn't OK, among your peers or otherwise. We discussed and dismissed an open blog where people could ID perpetuators of discrimination by name and details. The likelihood of catfights and slander seemed high, and we were also selfishly concerned about jeopardizing our somewhat public jobs.

Despite attending a racially mixed school, The Observer didn't have a close friend of a different race until her early 20s. She is reminded of something that friend said about confronting evil and prejudice: "Whether you're dealing with yourself or others, you have to come from a place of love." And wanting to create that blog seemed to come from a place of self-righteousness and anger. Ultimately we concluded that we should have just spoken up on the spot. We wish that we had.

But as overwhelming as these issues seem, there are bright spots. Friday night The Observer attended a vigil for the victims of the Milwaukee Temple shooting. A couple hundred people gathered at the flagpole in front of the Capitol, representing an array of lifestyles, religions and races. We were there because we know Sikhism to be a peaceful religion, preoccupied with unity and charity, and because, under that flag, we know America (the dream) to be preoccupied with "liberty and justice for all." And maybe that's where we go for our answers — when people gather to collectively know these things, that is the when and the how. It's tiny, but it's hope.

Favorite

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • I'm sorry

    I'm sorry we stood by while your generation's hope was smothered by $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, just because you were trying to educate yourselves enough to avoid falling for the snake oil and big talk of a fascist.
    • Nov 17, 2016
  • Snake stories

    The Observer's boss, Uncle Alan, is something of a gentleman farmer on his spread up in Cabot, growing heirloom tomatoes and watermelons and crops of chiggers on property that looks like the perfect farmstead Lenny and George often fantasized about in "Of Mice and Men."
    • Aug 27, 2015
  • Show and tell

    The Observer is an advocate of the A+ method of integrating the arts and using creativity to teach across the curriculum, an approach that the Thea Foundation, with help from the Windgate Charitable Foundation, is offering to schools across the state.
    • Feb 25, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in The Observer

  • Steamrolled

    Levy says goodbye to The Gettin' Place, a mom and pop store and deli.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • Nibbles

    As winter turns to spring, The Observer finds again the urge to get our fishing pole and tackle box, dig some worms out in the backyard, and go fishing.
    • Mar 16, 2017
  • There once was a prez who was orange ...

    The lefties The Observer knows are coping with the Dorito Mussolini regime in different ways: working out, creating art, staying well away from Twitter and randomly driving in the countryside to scream bloody murder and throw crockery at the moon.
    • Mar 2, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Forest bathing is the Next Big Thing

Arkansas is the perfect place to try out this new health trend. Read all about the what, why, where and how here.

Event Calendar

« »

March

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation