Rerouting my bike ride home…

BLAM! BLAM! ….  pow pow POW! BLAM!!!

Gunshots echo across Perkins Homes as I was about to go down Gough Street on my commute home.  Maybe a dozen kids start running away from the center of the projects.  My first instinct is to grab my phone and call 911, but my survival instincts tell me to turn my bike around.   I hear a cry out of a woman in pain and have a moment of indecision.  Should I continue down Gough St and see if I could be of some help?  Then a flash back of my previous run in with kids having guns in Baltimore city and I accept my helplessness as an Asian American outsider.

Frozen, at the corner of Broadway and Gough, I come to the conclusion to reroute up Broadway ironically down Baltimore St to avoid the danger.  As I coast down Baltimore St, the Police helicopter flies above and I hear the police siren wail…

Just another hot (feels like 106 F) evening in Baltimore.


Biking home today

So as I was biking up Fallsway by Central booking on my daily bike route, I saw three young black kids blocking the bike path. Two of them had bikes, one didn’t. I immediately sensed their desire to take my bike. As I approached, one boy was on a bike trying to block the path. The other two seemed waiting. Maintaining steady eye contact with the other two kids, I made sure they knew that I “see” them. As I passed them, the one trying to block me started biking and yelled in an exasperated tone something at the other two. I calmly biked on thinking that the problem was averted.

After traveling a block or so on Guilford right in front of my children’s elementary school, I saw a hammer fly on the concrete sidewalk next to me. I quickly turned and noticed one of the boys from earlier was on a bike and tried to throw a hammer at me. He quickly turned his bike and biked away.

It is again, very sad that children feel the need to throw a hammer to hurt someone to just steal a bike. Should people flee this very real suffering and live in richer cities or suburbs? Or should we stay and engage this city with compassion and responsibility? How can you live in a city like Baltimore with class privilege and not be a target? Such questions we will struggle to answer.


Dealing With Racism

Originally published: Thu, 08 Feb 2007 17:44:49 -05:00

Like many people of color raised in the United States, I have had my share of racial name calling and attacks. Born and bred in the American heartland, memories of being teased in the playground and being physically attacked during school recess for being the only Asian is apart of my childhood memories. The scars of such childhood attacks run deep and often brings out emotional and irrational responses when racially discriminatory incidents arise in one’s presence. When someone calls me “chink” or uses “ching chong” sounds to address me, the blood would start to flow and a pounding would begin to rise in my head. At that point, rational thought would fade and angry emotional outbursts would take over. This was common throughout my young adult life. Some friends would tell me that I was a magnet for racist comments and would say “only when I hang out with you, do I ever get that kind of stuff” (they don’t hang out with me anymore… 🙂 )

Just 5 years ago, when first coming to Baltimore to go swimming in the local pool with my wife and sister, a few kids in the pool would call me chink. The flashes of that childhood hurt would come back and embarrassingly, I found myself acting like that hurt child and I started hurling insults back. My wife looked at me in amusement and said “they are only kids, you are an adult, why do you react like that?”

“ouch.” I thought about that for a while.

This past Friday evening, while riding the Baltimore metro, two young black high school aged kids walked by me at the metro stop. As they passed, they gave me the “ching chong” sounds and tried to bump into me. Again, the angry emotions were there on the surface of my mind. My tai-chi training was visible as they tried to bump me where they felt the force they exchanged with me sent right back at them. They walked on and went to another place to wait for the train. At that point I decided it was time for me to grow up. I decided to confront the issue as an adult rather than as a child. As I approached them, the kid that bumped me jumped in panic fearing that he would be attacked.

I started the conversation, calmly and matter of factly told him “you know, when you make that ching chong noise at me, it is the same as when white people say those kinds of things about you.” His friend, in a childlike egging on voice said “ohhhhh he just called you a nigger!!” But the young man I confronted said, “shut up, no he didn’t!” He then apologetically said to me “you know, I was just playin….” I said “I know, but I just wanted you to know that” Then I wished him “blessings” as I offered my hand. He shook my hand, and I walked away. As they walked by, the young man I confronted smiled at me and said “see you later!”

Right before the train arrived, an elderly black man who witnessed the whole encounter gave me affirmation in saying “you did the right thing” and well, after 30 years, I hope those childhood scars have finally healed.


Held up at gun point…

Published originally : Thu, 07 Apr 2005 08:35:01 -04:00

After two years of my daily commute walking through the dark streets of Baltimore at 5AM, I was finally held up at gunpoint.  I guess the probabilities are bound to get you eventually.  Around 5:20 this morning in little Italy, as I was crossing Essex Street on Eastern Avenue while heading west, two young black kids emerging from a dark side street approached me from behind and said “come over here…”  I turned as they approached and then they said “give me everything you got.”  One kid showed me his hand gun and I took my wallet out.  I heard one kid tell the other “bring him back over here by the car” (in a dark side street)  Of course I refused to move from the lighted street lamp.  One kid took my wallet from my hand, yet sensing fear in the boys and not wanting them to have my address or pictures of my family, I promptly took it right back.

Now, most wallets have two sections in the bills area.  I have a one dollar section and a twenties section.  I opened my wallet, gave the kid all my one dollar bills (about 5-7 dollars) and then closed it and put it back in my pocket.  The kid with the gun then stuck his gun on my throat saying “you don’t want to get shot, do you?”  While the other kid asked for my wallet again…

All I said was “please sir…” (believing that these kids had no desire to shoot anyone) while the gun was at my throat.  Then the kid with the gun asked me “do you have a phone?”  I lied… “No” he checked my jacket side pockets (My phone was in my interior chest pocket) and then walked away.  I then kept on walking westward on Eastern Ave.  A few seconds later, from the alley way, a silver car rolled out and drove on…  I kept my eyes trained to the ground to give them no excuse to stop.

Thinking back on the incident, it is again a sad reminder that our world generates such desperate people in this world.  It is very sad that these kids find the need to hold people up at gun point for either gang initiation or cash.  In a sense, considering the behavior of humanity in the world, this behavior is probably expected by urban decay youths but it is still very unfortunate.