In my early 20s, I remember meeting NYC police officers visiting Montreal. What I remember of them, is how protective they were. And when we were downtown Montreal, to be honest, I thought they were borderline paranoid. Refusing to let me walk alone anywhere.
I’m a Montreal woman, my mother was poor, so we lived in Centre-Sud, probably one of the most horrible neighbourhood in the whole city, where it was normal to see hookers walking around, and where we found soiled syringes in the alleyway. The Rock Machine’s bunker (they would become the Hells Angels) was just across the street. You know, a super safe a reliable neighbourhood where it’s perfect to raise a family (I need a sarcasm font, I really do!)
So I thought I really knew ROUGH.
In 2009, I worked a booth at the Arnold Fitness Expo in Columbus Ohio. On the last day, I finished late so I booked a hotel room closer to the Airport. My husband had told me to be careful to choose the neighbourhood carefully. Being from the “ghetto” I didn’t care, I mean I have traveled the world over, all alone, just by myself. I mean how rough could a neighborhood in a developed country be?
To this day, that night has been the scariest of my entire life.
When I started hearing screams, not just regular loud screams, I mean someone is ripping-your-arm-off kinda screams; I started being really scared and turned off the lights in my room. My inner voice told me “do not let anyone know someone is here” That night I barely slept, the screams were awful, I realized I was in a crack heads neighborhood. And that was confirmed by the taxi driver who picked me up the next morning, telling me he even dreaded that part of town.
Fast forward to now… where TV shows like “the first 48 hours” or “Beyond scared straight” often happen in Ohio. And where they show the kind of neighborhoods I unfortunately ended up stopping in by one night.
I always had the, snobbish I admit, idea that being from the ghetto did not mean you had to be trash! I mean look at me, if I don’t talk about my childhood, everyone assumes I’m upper class. In my mind, you are 200% responsible of your life. There is absolutely no reason to be poor or uneducated.
This is where the Cops shows actually made me realize how wrong I was. We are also the product of our surroundings.
I realize that if I had been born in a shady Ohio’s neighborhood (for example). My life could have been VERY different.
In Canada, we have a free access to school, as in, it doesn’t cost a thing. When you are born poor, in a country where it takes money to study and establish the right foundation of your future, then you are disadvantaged right from the start.
Watching those shows also made me realize something else. Before I start, I want to say I have the deepest respect for Police officers! I think it is one of the most horrible jobs to have, no matter what you do, there are little rewards, and you put you life on the line each and every day!
Watching those shows, I unfortunately often had the feeling that the cops were not on the brightest scale of intelligence, I assumed maybe they had to level down because of the people they need to interrogate. Let’s face it, talking to “White trash Billy one tooth” is not the same as talking to “Mr the respected Judge”. But it got me thinking… and I started searching at the average police officers in the US. What I found is their salaries. The average police officer in the US makes a mere 25k a year.
A mere 25k … But you put your life on the line each day FOR A MERE 25K???
I honestly understand how someone would turn to illegal activities when a theoretically good position, and a dangerous one on top of it, does not even pay you enough to support a whole family.
(In Canada, the average police officer makes 75k, this is 3 times more and we have FREE health care and FREE education! Talk about getting a head start in life.)
I also now understand why one of my US police officer friend joined the Army, so he could provide a stable life to his newborn daughter, I honestly did not understand when he first told me. My perception was based on the life of a Canadian police officer.
I honestly understand the desire to be a gang-banger, when you have nothing, it’s easy to be looking up to gang-bangers.
In one of those shows, there was a woman named Ivette Corporan. Ivette is in jail. She killed a man. (I won’t tell her story, search if you feel like it.)
When I heard Ivette’s story, I had a feeling she was talking about a part of my own life. For a second, with an identical background, I knew her life could have been mine. Not saying I could have killed anyone, but I could see me there instead of her.
I always tell people to stop judging, you know the saying: Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. But people rarely do stop and wonder. And if you don’t know a person’s background, how can you judge them and their current actions?
Watching those shows did not make me more paranoid about criminals, if anything, they gave me a greater understanding and respect of the human condition.
I can’t help everyone and, yes, it bugs me, oh what I would do with God’s like powers 😉 I now offer time and money to a women’s shelters and to the Breakfast club of Canada. For me it will always be the vulnerable children and women first, but I sometimes have this feeling I’m not helping 1) enough and 2) the right causes.
I value vulnerable children and women causes because I know how hard it can be to be a woman, travelling around the world also made me see how lucky I am to be Canadian. And kids! they are little sponges who will absorb and be shape by what you give them. They deserve only the best!!
I’m curious to know what is your cause of choice? Is it because you can associate with the persons/causes? And if not what are your reasons for doing so? And if you do not help, what is your reason? As usual, there won’t be any negativity here, not everyone is able to offer time or money, and for some time in my own life, it was out of the question.