Musings Nonfiction Societal The Word 9 minute read

homeLESS

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I don’t have a home. I don’t have a home for my family or me and I don’t know where to go.

The formula didn’t work. You get a creditable education + an admirable career that includes an impressive salary = buy a great house in the best neighborhood multiplied by your kids being in the best schools and safest neighborhoods. Right?

My husband and I got the degrees, the impressive six-figure salaries and moved into one of the most affluent counties in the nation, Marin County where the public schools are some of the best in California. But, I’m questioning if my kids are safe. In theory, they should be. Our neighborhood even uses an online App (Nextdoor.com) that aids us in monitoring our neighborhood happenings. The App is designed to increase our feelings of security, but instead the posts have made me feel that my children are vulnerable:

With this rash of burglaries, we all need to take a more active role in policing our neighborhood. Several years ago I bought a rental in the Oakland Hills. There were weekly break-ins until the neighborhood instituted a neighborhood watch. The crime gradually decreased and break-ins became a rare event. Instead of relying on sporadic police patrols, the neighbors’ vigilance rid the crime problem. I for one am starting to drive around a few extra blocks when I come and go from my home. If we all spend an extra 5 minutes driving around, maybe we can catch these criminals. If anyone looks out of place, call the sheriff. I don’t like to profile, but these criminals aren’t exactly coming from their homes in Ross. I see a lot of strange cars in our neighborhood. Follow them and take their licenses. Let these people know that Greenbrae isn’t full of wealthy sheep for the taking; it certainly looks like these guys think our neighborhood is there for the picking.
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“If anyone looks out of place…..” We are a Black family that lives in a county that is 97% white and in a neighborhood that is 99.5% White. “If anyone looks out of place…”

My boys are typical, in that they love to be outdoors burning off that testosterone –driven energy. They enjoy all of what makes Marin County so special, the perfect weather, the trees to swing from, the huge hills to coast their scooters down, the basketball courts and soccer fields. They hangout, they walk to their friends homes and to the local shopping center that’s less than a mile away.DSC_0797

They are also typical in that they wear the athletic gear that’s popular with teen athletes: high top basketball gym shoes, big Nike Shorts, shirts stamped with cool slogans. The youngest sports a mid-sized afro.

When I look at my 5’7” oldest son, I see that results from him lifting weights with his dad three times per week; I see his huge smile that has cost us a fortune in orthodontia; I see a chess player, an honors student, a basketball star, a goofy class-clown. I see my 9-pound baby boy. When I look at my youngest son, I see another basketball player, who is also excels at soccer in at school. He loves nothing more than cuddling with me—still—and makes a perfect grilled cheese sandwich.

These posts have made me realize that several of my neighbors see danger.

At 4:45pm, a young black male with a colorful sweatshirt and baseball cap headed up Los Cerros (the corner of Almenar). He headed up the hill and quickly ducked out of view. I waited at the corner and he came back down the hill shortly after and headed out toward SFD. I talked to a friend that saw the same person on the corner of Eliseo and SFD at 4:30, standing by himself.

What is next? Will one of my sons get followed a la Zimmerman? Will the police be called and will they question my 14 year old? Will my son fearfully begin to fumble his words, will he run, will they shoot him? The latest news stories provide the screenplay to my fears.

As Trayvon Martin’s face and story fill my thoughts, it seems that episodes of Law and Order begin to fuel those of my neighbor’s. The posts on the Nextdoor App indicate a growing hysteria.

Beige Jaguar sedan that needs a muffler – License plate 6REC279.

Sheriff has been notified but car passed the sheriff as the sheriff was arriving.

Hispanic male, 2 diamond-like earrings and reversed baseball cap.

He loiters then drives away quickly when you leave your house.

Unbelievably, the sheriff was not planning to visit him even after he obtained his name and address from the license plate. After conveying the importance of this incident to the sheriff, he assured me that he will have visited this person of interest by tomorrow. I followed him to the canal and will follow up with the sheriff tomorrow.

At the top of Navarro a heavy set hispanic man w mustache (30’s) stood outside his silver Toyota Tacoma pickup truck on the phone from at least 12:30 until 2 PM. The pickup had a new lawnmower, new blower & new trash bin in the back. The license plate was CA 7G84067, plate frame noted it was purchased at Toyota Merced. He left without doing any gardening work.

I just noticed different silver toyota pickup truck essentially in the same place as the other one. The license plate is CA 8X20371. There are plastic boxes in the back of the truck. White man w baseball cap just left, there for maybe 30 min.

Both trucks are silver & rather new.

Things affect you on an unconscious level. You don’t realize that you’ve been changed until your actions change. During the Christmas holidays, my holiday ham was delivered to the wrong address. The neighbor was nice enough to call me, so that I could pick it up. My boys and I pulled up into the neighbor’s driveway. Typically, I would have sent my son up to the door to retrieve the ham. But, despite that fact that the neighbor was expecting me, I still parked the car, left the boys inside and went to get the ham myself. It dawned on me later that I was apprehensive of what the neighbor’s reaction to a tall, Black young man on her front porch at night.

I realized that I was scared. I was scared of my neighbors. Fear is contagious.

So, I sent a note with pictures of my sons through the Nextdoor App.

Hi,

Please take a moment to review the pictures below of our sons, Zach (14) and Evan (12). We have owned a home in Greenbrae for 10 years and our sons both went to Bacich. While they both attend Cathedral School for Boys in the City presently, Zach will attend Redwood in the Fall. Our sons frequently walk or scooter from our home to their friend’s homes and to the Bon Air shopping center. They usually wear sweats and other athletic gear, as do most teen boys. Zach is quite tall. You may see them walking or hanging out throughout the community. Thank you.

 

“Please”, I urged them. “Please” take a look at their pictures. Silently, I was saying, please don’t shoot them; please don’t call the police on them; please don’t harass them. Please don’t allow your fear to psychologically tear them down, harden them, place them where I am–scared.

Of course, in my message, I also wanted to include the latest stats of crime in our neighborhood. For instance, I wanted to remined them that crime is lower than it has been in years. Hispanic, Black and yes, White males have been arrested for robberies in our area. I wanted them to refer to their own posts to help them to see the fallacy in their profiling plan:

We had a package stolen from our porch on Friday morning. I am not sure but I think I saw it happen while I was showering. I saw a white male wearing a hooded sweatshirt run out from our porch area and jump into a late 90’s or early 2000’s car (gold color). I had an obstructed view so I couldn’t tell the make or model.

But, I knew that their fears were rooted in decades of ignorance and fear. Unfortunately, bigots rarely admit their biases, and definitely aren’t going to have a wake-up, turn-around moment like they do in the movies. So, I just focused my note on who truly mattered: my boys. I got probably 50 supportive responses, but this one let me know that I had done the right thing:

Randi, I’ve lived here for 26 years and my adult son was followed by a new neighbor. She questioned him, yelled and insisted he didn’t belong in this neighborhood. She then called the police. Until this day, I don’t think my son has recovered from that experience. I am proud of you for speaking out. Our children’s safety is paramount. The world and neighborhood we live in is not as it should be. I send you and your family blessings and all shall be well.

But, now what? I’m still scared for my kids. They formula was to provide them with the safest place. Are they safe here? Even though, I genuinely believe that 90% of my neighbors are good people, fear, hysteria and ego breed illogical fear. All it takes is 1 minute, 1 neighbor, 1 quick judgment for me to get that call. I know that no matter how I dress my sons, what degrees my husband and me have, how neighborly we try to be—to some my boys will “look out of place.”

And we chose this place, this neighborhood, to call home.

Regardless of where we live, in what county or country, in a house or an apartment; home is supposed to be our safe place, a refuge, love, our comfort.

My family is homeLESS.

a refuge, love, our comfort.

My family is homeLESS

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