My fears were dismissed early Monday morning when I discovered that the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transportation) was NOT going on strike. So my commute to work was relatively painless and done in just under an hour from my front door in San Francisco to St. Vincent DePaul Center in Oakland.
I thought I had fully tasted diversity in the last four years while living on the North side of Chicago. However, it did not compare to the variety of faces I came across on the MUNI buses in downtown Frisco. Asians and Hispanics were the overwhelming majority. Once I crossed the Bay into Oakland, that quickly changed into a predominately African American population. As a white woman, I don’t think I’ve ever lived or continuously worked in a neighborhood where I am the minority. I like that. I feel like it will make me better understand what it feels like. But, I do need to get past what can be sometimes be the obsessive thoughts and questions “Everyone must be looking at me, wondering what I am doing here,” or “Am I immediately assumed to be a case worker…here to help?” I hate that.
Still, I feel compelled to pass everyone I see on the sidewalk with a hello. From the men with shopping carts containing what I assume must be their entire lives to women straddling multiple children on their hips, I guess I want my “hello” to convey that I choose to be here and I am not afraid, despite what city crime and economic statistics say. I now share this neighborhood with them, even if is only during the daytime. I realize that it will be difficult to reconcile the fact that each day I will be returning to a nice neighborhood in San Francisco, where I have my room for rest and quiet, a refrigerator full of food and a community that keeps me sane.