“San Bernardino, once a sturdy, middle class ‘All-America City,’ is now bankrupt, the poorest city of its size in California, and a symbol of the nation’s worst urban woes,” from “San Bernardino: Broken City” by Joe Mozingo, LA Times.
This is how the world saw us. Soon, pictures of places I know well were suddenly the same images used to degrade my city. It’s as if everyone goes around looking for any bad thing in sight. It was never that way to me or the rest of the world till we started being portrayed that way. This wasn’t my view of the Valley.
I still remember growing up like it was yesterday. First I lived with my grandmother but I never really thought much of it. I was too busy pretending to be Spider-Man and bouncing around basketball courts. Several years later I moved into my current home, a one-story house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a huge backyard, and the family room I’d always wanted. It was better than the other three residents I’d lived in so far.
Despite this wonderful place I felt sad. I was older now and society said that it was time I wake up from my fantasy and realized that I live one of the worst places in America, San Bernardino. Even with a better house and more money, life wasn’t any better. Life here could no longer be about happiness but about surviving and getting out. Maybe if the people of the world saw us as more than the “Definition of Poverty in America,” then we the people could begin to love our city.
Now of course I wasn’t blind. I knew San Bernardino wasn’t the best place in the world. Numbers can’t exactly lie. I was always told of its dangers, and I knew that danger well. Maybe a little better than most seeing that I was nearly adductive as a child. Anger was real to me but I could always hear or see the good in my city.
We were poor but constantly discovering things like public pools, clean parks, and beautiful houses surrounded by golf courses. Now my fantasy city is the remains of “something.” Something I am told I can never be: beautiful.
We fill the heads of the youth with the idea that this city is “lost,” “ghetto” and “poor.” We suggest that since they come from the slums they are slums. If they are slums, then why should we try to improve our city or be involved with a place we are taught to hate? Why should the people who can make a change stay, when they were taught to get away from here as soon as possible? Why should the people who can’t get away try to improve are city if they are taught the city hates them? If we leave people ignorant, we leave them vulnerable to that danger.
You don’t have to trust something to want to love and nurture it, but still you can see it once again walk on its own. We can continue on this same road and preach the same idea of a broken, poor, and violent San Bernardino, but if this is what we believe, then this is what we will continue to see.
Be ready for the shooting, for the murders, for tears shed by people just like you whose only difference is they didn’t have the choice to live anywhere else. Prepare for poverty and all it brings. Prepare for what you preach because those words they hold the power to shape reality. One you may not be ready for.