Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Processing: The Compton State of Mind

Within my internship cohort, it is common knowledge that I hail from Los Angeles, California. To be more specific, I spent most of my youth learning, playing and preparing to change the world in Compton.

I must admit that I did not always claim Compton to be my city of origin. Mainly because my address reads Los Angeles, but when people visit me they realize that folks just a street over write Compton on their packages. Another reason I never owned this city is because I thought it was shameful to come from there.

While I do not want to put the blame on others, I was raised by people who did not own the place they were born and raised.




For those unfamiliar with Los Angeles County cities, the above are a few. They are not the richest or most amazing towns but they are arguable better than the one my grandmother raised her seven children in. These were the answers given to folks by my family members when they were asked where they lived. From a young age, I wondered what was wrong with being from Compton but I never asked.

When Compton is seen on TV and in movies, commentators never have anything positive to say. Hub City is a symbol for all things a town should not want to be, according to the gatekeepers who control what the masses are exposed to. People only know the gunshots and liquor stores on every other corner. There is no denying that the aforementioned aspects of the city exist, those are not the only things that are present.

Hub City residents do so much more. They make with what they have and many contribute positively to society. That though, it never gets any shine. Hence the reason I have talks about my origins that trigger me in ways you could not imagine.

Last night, I was spending time with fellow interns. During a conversation with a friend of an intern, the question of my hometown came up. As I answered, "Los Angeles", another person at our get together chimed in "Compton". For the sake of this post, we will refer to him as Ralph. Why he felt the need to insert himself into our conversation is unknown, but I moved passed it and continued to talk. We began to compare and contrast big cities like Los Angeles to the current university town we were in. Ralph asked if I felt safer since moving up north for school.

The question made me feel uneasy. To me, Ralph was inferring that I felt unsafe in Compton. As his words reached my eardrums, my first thoughts in response were, "You don't know my life." I wanted to yell this at him then school him about my life so that he would be more knowledgeable in the future. That is, if I ever come in contact with him again once my internship is over.

That did not happen though. At the beginning of my time as an intern, I realized Ralph was not an easy person to talk to. He was stuck in his ways and there was no convincing him to stray away from thoughts already made concrete in his mind. Last night, I choked because I did not want to get into yet another argument with this guy. Once I did want to bring it back up, he was out of the door.

Now I'm left with the need to talk to him. I don't want Ralph to go on thinking Compton is not safe, that people need to get out in order to feel like they will not be shot.

Compton raised me and I am no longer afraid to own that. Every city comes with the good and the bad. Conversations will be had.

And with that, I end with Kendrick Lamar's "Compton State of Mind".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also think Ralph doesn't know the line between acceptable interpersonal conversation and biting questions/comments. (Maybe he thinks that's big-time journalistic cred, but whatever.) He's made some kind of cutting remarks before (about such topics as ethnicity, hair dye, etc.). I don't think he's ever gotten any kind of slap-on-the-hands. I hope he learns the gentle way, but sometimes, making mistakes is the only way to overcome naivete.