05 May 2008

Sticks and Stones... But Mostly Stones

On Saturday, Science Boy, The Boy and I went to the Art Institute of Chicago to see the Edward Hopper / Winslow Homer exhibit. It was lovely and exhausting. We had a great day -- the two of them always enjoy ganging up on me to tease...

We rode the train home and then just had a short walk. There were three boys playing in a field on our way. I would have guessed them to be between 10-13 years old. I noticed them and then didn't pay any more attention.

Suddenly, one of the boys shouted something. I glanced over and saw them watching us. He yelled again, his words clearer.

"White Bitch!"

And then, the little darling threw a rock at me.

He missed.

SB saw a rock land but had missed the yelling. He asked, "Did someone throw a rock at us."

"Yeah, those kids," I nodded that way. We kept going and the same kid called out, loud and clear, "White Bitch!" again. Another rock. (Thankfully, another miss.)

This time, SB heard and froze. He turned to look at the kids. The same one who seemed to be doing all the yelling and rock throwing called out that ugly name one more time and then yelled, "We'll beat all your asses!"

Then, he and his friends, turned and ran away.

Our mood was somewhat subdued after that. I felt so wounded. "They don't even know me," I said. "I am a bitch sometimes, but I don't think it's because I'm White."

This might be the time to mention that SB and I live in a relatively poor, predominantly African-American community on Chicago's West Side. We've only lived here since August, but I like it. People are pretty friendly and our apartment is beautiful. I like our neighbors. When an electrical fire broke out on our back porch a few weeks ago, neighbors saw, called the fire department, and alerted SB. People say hi when they pass you on the sidewalk.

SB is African-American; I am Caucasian. It's never been an issue.

This is the second time I have been called a White Bitch since we moved. The first time, Two teen girls were walking past my house as I was bringing mail in in the evening. I said, "Hello."
One replied, "White Bitch."

That time hurt, too.

I just don't understand what would move someone to call another person, one they don't even know, an ugly name based on nothing more than race. I try to be pleasant to the people I encounter. These children, both of them who have called me this name, are very likely neighbors.

And do I have to worry that might run into these boys again one day while I am walking home, heaving their nasty words and solid rocks?

I've been lucky that their aim with the rocks was not good this past Saturday. Their words, however, hit their mark.


Clare said...

I am sorry to hear about all that. I'm not sure any words I could write could help, but I hope that these kinds of incidents don't happen as much from now on. (I wish I could say they wouldn't happen ever again...)

On a cheerier note - I really LOVE Edward Hopper and am feeling a bit envious of your trip to the Institute. I've been meaning to find where his work is and go see it on display. Is it a permanent exhibit or just for a time?

Miss Katharine said...

According to http://www.nga.gov/exhibitions/hopperinfo.shtm, it looks like this was the last stop on the tour. I know the Art Institute hear owns several of his works, including the iconic "Nighthawks."