Monthly Gratitude #6 / by Kiran Umapathy

Last weekend, my friend Boris and I went for a bike ride around San Francisco. It started as a trip down to Heron's Head Park, and by the time we were done, had us cycling through Bayview, Hunter's Point, Visitacion Valley, and Excelsior. By coincidence it became a tour of housing projects, something that I all too often forget exists in San Francisco. It's easy too easy when you spend your time in more affluent neighborhoods.

On a couple of occasions where I had to walk my single speed bike up a steep hill, I noticed how rough the neighborhoods looked. It was like something out of a movie, far removed. The structures were sterile, lacked plant life, and from my perspective, hope. The pop-up establishments weren't gourmet burgers or vegan soul food, they were satellite police stations. No one looked happy to be there.

While many people may never set foot in some of these neighborhoods, I'm grateful for the experience. A reminder that not everyone lives a coiffed existence of fancy coffee, food, and cocktails. Hell, I'm even at the point where I get sick from participating in it. This ride kept me in touch with the reality of many people's lives, if even for an afternoon. It was also a reminder that goddamn, I'm lucky. Many kids grow up in similar situations with no choice and I can only imagine how difficult it is to advance yourself. It's a lifetime achievement just to get out.

Much of the time we equate privilege to exorbitant wealth, but it's privilege just to have a safe a stable roof over you head, parents who care, and not having law enforcement make snap judgments on how threatening you are because of how you look. Yes, life is challenging even without all that, but can you imagine the extra burden when there are so many barriers to begin with? This is a call to speak out (beyond the internet) when profiling happens. Not with just outrage, but real discussion on what's not working and how we can improve it, even a little. It's a call to vote based on more than who is going to cut your taxes or pad your investment accounts. Most of all, it's a call to not forget what great progress has been made in the past and know that it will continue to happen if you participate. Progress is rarely linear, but it's absolutely worth it to keep chipping away.