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Racism is the exception, not the rule, but we need to stay vigilant

It's 2:46 a.m. and I can't sleep. I have a desperate need to write all of this down. It's Friday, Oct. 19.

To the old couple that blocked me on the sidewalk on Marsh Street in SLO the week prior to the 2016 elections and tried to make me feel unwelcome, you don't represent the SLO community. Thank you for confirming that day what I had been feeling for months, that racists were feeling emboldened ever since Trump became mainstream and that I had to be more vigilant than ever.

To the lady who assumed my friend was using government aid because of the color of her skin and shamed her for having kids and being pregnant again, to you, I will proudly tell you that my friend graduated from college that same month while still working at her 9-to-5 job and taking care of two kids. My friend represents the Latino community.

To the guy who thought it was a good idea to have the Confederate flag attached to your car during the Atascadero Cruisin' Nite in August this year, you don't represent the people from North County. You turned a family event into an opportunity to show your ignorance and racism. To the people who think that the Confederate flag is just a show of heritage, you should question that heritage and check its racist roots. There were black families watching the show that night, and although I don't know how they felt that day, my heart still ached. Did the organizers even care? No. This car did at least two rounds while I was there, and I didn't see anyone stopping the driver.

To the old white guy who screamed at me, "You want to take everything away from us!" while I was canvassing at his neighbor's house the other day on Yerba Avenue in Atascadero, who is the "you" in your sentence? Me, a canvasser for Measure G? Me, a 5-foot-tall brown girl? You brown people? You women? Who is "you"?

Regardless of who you thought I was, based on nothing else but my looks, because I had no chance to respond you, no one is taking anything away from you. You still hold the privilege you were born with. Old white guy, I want you to know that absolutely no one else was rude to me while I was canvassing in your neighborhood. I met amazing people, actually, people who I would love to call my neighbors or friends.

I met your 98-year-old neighbor from down the street who has lived by herself ever since her husband died six years ago. She told me how she ended up in Atascadero and how she gets by even though she's 94 percent blind. She was the sweetest.

I also met John, your neighbor from two blocks down, who told me that he had more hope now that he saw someone canvassing at my age.

I also met a lovely man who yelled from his backyard: "Yes, we are all voting for Measure G in here. Thank you so much for canvassing. Our entire family supports the measure!"

There was also a guy who opened the door and with a smile on his face, accepted the info I was sharing, and said he'd rather keep his voting decision private but appreciated me bringing information to his door. I'm pretty sure that guy is not voting in favor, but he was a polite and nice human being. You, old white guy from Yerba Avenue, you are the exception. An unfortunate, un-neighborly exception.

Lastly, I would like you all to know that I am by no means defeated by these experiences, nor are my relatives or friends. You are making us tougher, better, wiser. You are showing us that there are two sides of this community, and from my experience in seeing this contrast, I can tell you that the bright/positive/kind side is way bigger, stronger, and luckily getting louder than the negative/racist/unwelcoming side. The majority of the community of San Luis Obispo County understands that we can't be distracted by bigots like you; we understand that unity, love, respect, and the defense of basic human rights is the only way to go.

To that part of the community I ask you: Stay loud. Stay vigilant. Vote.

New Times has a policy of not printing anonymous opinion pieces but made an exception for this one. Send comments to the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com. Or write a response for publication and email it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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