I recently went back to California for my daughter’s graduate school ceremony. And, I experienced yet another culture shock; one that may be obvious to most who live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is almost certainly obvious to those who are visiting or just moved there.
Bay Area folks are snobs. Maybe even elitist. And just a bit smug with a disturbing superiority complex.
Believe me, I didn’t want to see or feel this. I didn’t want to believe it when I saw and felt it. I wanted to deny it, to say that I was imagining things, that I was wrong. But, I wasn’t wrong, and it wasn’t my imagination.
Right now, I live in Texas, in a small city of 100,000 with an Air Force Base nearby. There is diversity here, albeit not on the level of the SF Bay Area, but it exists. The people here are warm, friendly and genuine. The shopkeepers remember you, and greet you. The store clerks chat with you and ask you how your day is going. The university students are open and gracious. Almost everyone says “ma’am” and “sir,” as in ‘Good morning ma’am, how are you today?”
If you walk into a specialty market, there is no air of ‘I know more than you’ or ‘you should be grateful I’m taking your money.’
And shockingly, Texas is supposed to be one of the bastions of racism. Believe it or not, I got more racist attitudes walking down College Avenue in Oakland, than in walking downtown here in Texas.
The ‘white’ people here speak to me. They address me respectfully. I can’t say the same for those in northern California.
Here, there is no air of privilege (white or otherwise). There is no snobbery or attitude of ‘I’m better than you.’ If I walk into a store, market or gas station, there is no look of ‘why are you here?’ or ‘aren’t you in the wrong neighborhood?’ The kicker is that I was in a 99 cents store in Berkeley (of ALL places). A young, white woman was with me. The clerk addressed his questions to her, and ignored me, even though she’d said nothing to him, and never indicated she was paying for anything. “She is WITH ME,” I pointed out to him; he mumbled a half apology. What the what???
In northern California, there is an insidious, underlying and murky river of racism that is played out everyday, in almost every encounter with the ‘white’ people who live there. Everyday, after venturing out into the Rockridge neighborhood where I was living, I wanted to take a shower. I wanted to wash the layer of snobbery, racism and elitism off my body, and out of my psyche. It was disgusting and repelled me. Amazingly, none of those I encountered have probably ever felt that they exhibited and exuded a distasteful and disgusting air; one that was almost tangible and seemed more animal like than human.
Thanks go to the spirit in gratitude that I don’t live there anymore. I don’t know if I ever will again.