Back when I lived in the dorms at Kadena Air Base, one of my next-door neighbors was a huge Sci-Fi movie nerd from Evanston, IL. The mental image that some people may be forming is something like Rick Moranis, but he looked a lot more like Lenny Kravitz. During one of the typhoon lockdowns in 2002, I was headed to the dayroom and his door was wide open with really loud sci fi movie sounds coming from inside. As I walked by, he tried to get my attention to tell me about his new sound system. I stopped to listen, he’s going on and on dropping terms that mean nothing to me, and he said something to the effect of “you can imagine how Star Wars is gonna sound”. In a moment of unnecessary honesty, I said “nah, I’ve never seen Star Wars” and he said “bro, you gotta experience this”. He turns whatever he was watching off and put Star Wars Episode 1 into the DVD player and cranked the volume up to 20. I endured 15 minutes before saying I needed to find a friend of mine, and I’d be back after that.
Clearly, I never returned to his room, I didn’t care about the movie or his sound system like that. However, I saw him about a week or two later and he said he’d let me borrow Star Wars so I could get caught up. Not sure why, but I took the DVD case and actually attempted to watch it one afternoon, and I was sound asleep before anything really happened. I gave it back to him and said it wasn’t my cup of tea. The conversation led to discussing all of the Sci Fi movies that I hadn’t seen. He questioned what kind of childhood I had, and I mocked his in defense of mine. Oddly enough, none of our experiences or moods about Chicago were inline outside of the generic love for the city. Where he is from versus where I’m from may be 18 miles apart, but he just as well could be from Green Bay as far as I’m concerned.
Not as tolerant as I thought
In talking with him, I was not at all tolerant of his ignorance regarding my upbringing, mostly because I expected him to relate at least a little bit, and also because I was 21 years old at the time. There was another guy from the North Side of Chicago present for one of our conversations, also a Black dude. We started talking about the summer of 1995 the way older people spoke about attending Woodstock. All of my friends from Chicago note that summer as being special for one reason or another. Different races, and socioeconomic statuses, summer of ’95 was different, but not in Evanston apparently. The only reason this story stuck with me is due to the proximity of these two locations and how different he sees the world from other people I knew in Chicago at the time.
I just read a Next Door post this morning that someone in my group shared stating the war in Ukraine should be the biggest concern going into the election season. Upon seeing it I immediately thought, not that critical for me. Sure, I recognize the importance and how it could be the biggest thing for some people, but in no way should it be the number 1 issue for all of us. Then I thought back to the Evanston version of Lenny Kravitz I previously mentioned. Not in the sense that the realization of “everyone has a different perspective” just dawned on me, it just placed more emphasis on that point, because in the world of politics, there is no acceptance of differing perspectives. For much of my early life, I was just as close minded as political parties are now about differences. Much like Joe Biden, I made bold claims about what constituted Blackness, and if someone strayed from my limited scope, they weren’t Black…at least socially.
The truth is, human experience varies across neighborhoods within the same town, so it’s only natural that there is no single perspective on anything regarding a particular demographic. At least there shouldn’t be a reasonable expectation for a single perspective. Despite me knowing this now, in my youth there was no way I could accept this. In addition to experiences, I would say “do you see what they do to us” referencing news police and the overall system of oppression that is very much real. However there was no consensus on who “us” was.
I have evolved in thought on this. Shared experiences don’t equate to shared values, or even a common opinion on a subject regardless of how popular it is to people like you in the same area, of the same race, or same socioeconomic background. Even the slightest variance in experience can impact ones perspective on a situation. Imagine going to see your favorite comedian in a fancy venue, great seats, the jokes are landing, it’s an amazing experience. Just know, in that same show, someone is sitting behind someone too big to see around, or there’s a pillar in their line of sight. The cocktail waiter is going to mess up their drink order and they’re gonna have a shitty night. I’ve been both of these people at two different Kevin Hart shows. My take on the shows matched the overall experience I had, not necessarily the purpose for me being there, which was to watch the comedian tell jokes.
At this point, you’re probably thinking this post is about perspectives and all that. Nope, this is the longest, long-winded introduction/disclaimer I could possibly do to lead into next week’s topic. I just want you to know that I’m an open-minded individual that understands we all have different perspectives AND I appreciate our differences. I know that being from a similar background doesn’t mean you fit the description of others or even most that are in that same category for whatever reason. Remember this post when you read next week’s post that seemingly ignores this, if you so decide to read next week’s post.