Since We’re Neighbors, Let’s be Friends

Thankfully, the furor over the incident involving Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley seems to be subsiding, but not before we were treated to yet another example, as if one were needed, of how far we have yet to go in this country regarding race relations.

As annoying to me as this whole sorry episode was, there is one disturbing aspect of the incident which seems to have gone unnoticed; why is it that so many of us live in such a way that we don’t even recognize our own neighbors?

Several of my friends come from countries as disparate as India, Zimbabwe, Western Samoa and other places. Their backgrounds and experiences are all quite unique, yet they have each observed how lonely they often feel here in California, even in the midst of a busy urban environment.

How can it be that we can be surrounded by people everywhere all the time, and yet still be alone?

What has caused us to contract so tightly into our own separate worlds? Was it so long ago that children would play together in each other’s yards? Are we so suspicious of each other that we don’t even want to look each other in the eye and say “hello”? Is it that we afraid of crime, or are we so involved in our virtual communities that we needn’t bother to interact with actual people anymore?

Many of us are just overworked, and too exhausted to do anything other than just coming home to fall into bed. Never mind borrowing a cup of sugar to make a cake.

As Professor Gates stated, this incident was indeed a “learning opportunity”. For me, what we have learned is that it has become the norm for a woman to not recognize her own neighbor trying to get into his home in the middle of the afternoon.

I hope that we can all unplug ourselves from our Blackberries and cell phones from time to time. Let’s go out and meet our neighbors.

Iya Mahea