The schemata of how we interpret things, which got exacerbated by what was told to us, adding to the stereotypes, which made us get into the flight mode, translated…
I’d stayed in the third largest city of the U.S., Chicago for a time.
Before I set out, the contacts of University of Chicago notified me, that they’d set me up for the international student dorms, that a lot of the shorter stay exchange students or the scholars all live there, that it’s a, “safe” location.
I couldn’t understand what the man meant “safe”, started guessing at it, was it the earthquakes? The typhoons? Or, the threats from the Chinese missiles? And clearly, it was, NONE of these.
The contact also told me, because I had a mediocre length stay, and it was in the middle of the semester, that if it was during the summer vacations, I could find a room to rent from a student who’d gone home, that it would be cheaper, and closer to the school, that it would be, “safer”.
Another matter of safe and safter, the man kept mentioning the word, “safety”, and it’d made me imagined the gun shooting scenes in the American movies, and I couldn’t help but, trembled, and started wondering on the “difference between safe and safer”, and, with my language barrier, I would have to live at a “safer” location, why would I want to risk being just, “safe”?
Perhaps, my contact noticed my trouble, he’d immediately told me, “don’t worry! You live on 59th Street, 59th north up to 49th is all safe, just don’t go over 59th~”
This made me worry even more, south of 59th is dangerous, doesn’t that means, that I live, on the “borders”? Then, how can I be certain of how what’s “unsafe”, doesn’t break the boundaries? Or, is the real boundaries of “unsafe” actually on 60th or 61st, 59th could be, farther away, from what’s, “unsafe” then? But, what is the measurements, the considerations of this, means of, “safety”?
After a long, long ride, close to twenty hours since I’d landed, I’d finally, arrived at the gates of the international student dormitories, it was a road of at least, eight lanes, a freeway with all the cars rushing by, like a river that you can’t see the other side of. There’s the widened island in the middle of the road, the green trees grew on that island, and I can’t seem to find a pedestrian’s crossing section. I’d finally understood, the boundaries of “safety” of the 59th then. I’d thought, what weaves to and from, in and out of this, boundary, perhaps, are nothing more than the pigeons, and the, sparrows.
Every day, I’d trekked to and from the international dorm and the school, and on the weekends, I’d gone to Lake Michigan to stroll. As it was winter, there’s, nothing but snow on the streets. And, I’d started, bumping across those riding out on their bicycles or the joggers, those who’d brushed shoulders with me, no matter the skin colors, they all, looked, decent, enough, and clearly, the local residents were with, higher levels of, education, with good jobs, and, so this, is a, “good” district. I’d always, stared dumbfounded across the other side, looking up at the clouds overhead, imagined what the trees covered up, what’s, on the, other side?
One day, a few of my lab mates were driving out. All the way, we were all chatty, and getting into good conversations, and then, suddenly, after a turn, everybody fell, silent, and, the streets were, sunken, in the, darkness of the rustiness of the steel, and, even if the colors are painted with brighter colors…………as I saw the faces of those who’d been living in Chicago for long, as a newbie, I’d, come to know, and, started, making myself, scarce in the seats.
At this time, the engine started, making the weird noises. The driver started, sweating now, the passenger next to the driver, with his eyes opened wide, as if mumbling, “why did you have to turn in here”, and questioning, “did you get this car tuned up on time?”, at the same time, alerted to watch the goings on of the window, with one hand, clenching the handlebar over the window tight.
The engine that sounded like it was dying, was totally a contrast to the hearts beating in the car then, I’d felt heated u, but that cold sweat started, rolling down my spine. Then, a few more blocks, the car, died. And the three large guys by the side of the road noticed us, and the driver started getting, panicky, there’s no other pedestrians, no other cars anywhere near us. The large man moved slowly, the driver quickly pressed the central door lock systems, and we had all, started, hyperventilating, and the driver started the keys in the ignition over, over, and over, I’d squinted my eyes to the lines. “Could it be that he’s here, to offer us help?”, a thought came to me, but I’d not, dared, blurt it aloud……………
It’s moving, it’s moving, the car is, moving, I’d looked through the rearview, saw the large men spreading their arms out, and, shrugging, away.
Then, I kept on wondering, maybe, they were there, to help us out, it’s just, that invisible border of the stereotypes are like the boundary of the 59th, like that huge gap that none of us can, and were, willing to, cross, to the point that as I’d asked my friends later, if they would, live through it again, will they still have run in a hurry, they’d responded, that they, would.
And so, this is how the stereotypes can get so deep in us, that we get into the mindset of automatically separating people into the categories that we were, socialized to put them in, and that’s just wrong, because if you don’t get to know the individual personally, how can you tell if the person is good, or bad, just based off of their, skin colors?