Earlier this week in my English class, we were talking about race and education. It’s a unit we’ve been working on and I remember sitting amazed in our class discussion as we embraced differences, race, education, Malala Yousafzai, and so much more. But as the bell rang and I mentioned that I was going to Dorchester, MA, the comments that bubbles from my classmates left me a bit…uncomfortable?
They joked about how Dorchester is all gangs and dark alleys. If I hadn’t known better, I’d think I was about to talk into the Joker’s territory in Gotham City. They painted a picture that Dorchester was nothing more than gang shootings, run down buildings, and poor housing. Comments about Dorchester’s crime rate and low education level was made. How down a dark alley way, you might find a grimey school but probably get jumped before you near.
All of this in a terse moment as we left our classroom. I was in shock. To me, Dorchester is the closest thing to Vietnam outside of Vietnam. It’s part of Boston and proudly holds the a historic title of being the largest Boston neighborhood and the most diverse of all. There are clusters of Vietnamese, Hispanic, Irish, Cape Verdian, and more all throughout the city. Dorchester is famous in Vietnamese immigrant history. It holds the first Vietnamese Community Center in Fields Corner. It is thriving with pho restaurants and teeming with asian super markets. It’s rich in culture and history.
There is a level of familiarity in Dorchester that even the densest stranger would notice. Everyone knows each other. Whether related by blood, or friends of friends, or maybe neighbors back in Vietnam, everyone is friendly. In Vietnamese super markets I’ve noticed and experienced more people asking me how to cook something with the mustard leaves I picked out or coconut jelly or asking which brand I prefer most then shopping in American super markets. In fact, in American culture, it’s very closed. There’s a decreasing level of neighborly love and an increasing want for privacy. Maybe because in America, you don’t necessarily depend on your neighbors. In Vietnam, your neighbors helped protect your house from being robbed. You’d exchange vegetables and fruits that you’ve grown out of kindness and love.
It’s so different. But I’m blessed to live close enough to a location where I have a piece of that community around me. This is the Dorchester I know. A misjudged and crudely built place where love is more bountiful and valued than any monetary or materialistic value. A place where your family is extensive and your maternal grandmother’s brother’s daughter’s cousin’s daughter’s brother-in-law is like your own brother.
Maybe I need to take things with a grain of salt. But Dorchester faces just as many prejudices as the Middle East. They may not be fighting the Taliban for education, but they have to fight through gangs, poverty, judgement from their fellow American, and who knows what else.
I’m upset that my classmates are intelligent enough to see the wrong of other countries, but they are so desensitized to our own local problems, they’re blind from them. Are you so clueless to see that these Dorchester teens and kids may not have been able to choose to live in such conditions surrounded by violence? Apparently so, because all I hear is judgment that “if they wanted to, they could be just as educated as us”. The truth of the matter is many of them are, if not even smarter than us. They have highly ranked schools like Boston Latin School. They have diversity and culture which Woburn High is lacking.
Remember that we may live in a better area, but that was not our choice. Judge a person on their heart and their mind, not their environment.