Throughout this project, I have listened to what Dave hasn’t said as much as what he has. When we all listen to each other, when we notice the voice of the pauses, as much as we do the words, we hear that much more. As Dave recounted his time with an undercover street team, I couldn’t help but wonder about those moments of pause, as he replayed past experiences in his head, making sense of memories before sharing. We all have stories, and Dave racked up quite a few of his own during his three year tenure with the drug unit. He gained unique perspectives, one of which was just how different the public’s perception and attitudes towards various people within a community can be. It was a lesson he learned first hand. The following story shares a part of his experience.
An Undercover Perspective Matching Actions to Intentions
It took about a year to really develop a look that masked the real me. My beard had grown long and straggly, hanging well down my chest. My ears had contained numerous piercings, and heavy metal icons adorned many of my shirts and hoodies. I learned what it felt like to be marginalized by my community. My children, by association, learned it, too.My family and I were fortunate to live in a nice middle-class neighbourhood with pretty, luxury SUV-driving soccer moms around every corner. One particular day, my three-year-old son and I had been sent to run errands and pick up groceries for the week. Like any other day, we entered the store and went about our business selecting our eggs, milk, meat, and cereals. Happy, my son sat in the cart as we made our way through the store. As we turned down our next aisle I heard a young boy say, “Look at the guy, mom.” My son and I both turned to see a young boy, with his well groomed mother, pointing at me. “Look at that guy, mom,” he repeated, this time catching his mom’s attention. As her eyes met mine I saw them widen, then an expression of fear or disgust flashed across her face. “Quiet,” she answered him before they promptly fled the aisle. Without missing a beat my boy, realizing what had just happened, put his hands on mine and rubbed them, proclaiming, “You’re the best dad ever, I love you.”That day stayed with me; my son’s innate social wisdom and compassion, and the knee-jerk reaction of the well-heeled mom and her son. That response became our new normal. Whenever I was with my spouse and kids, at the zoo, the mall, or an amusement park, people stared. The judgement and disapproval were clear, those poor kids. When they saw the pretty brunette with me I can only assume those confused stares meant they were trying to figure out if she was my sister, or maybe my parole officer. I’m certain they never suspected she was my wife at the time.
An Undercover Perspective Matching Actions to Intentions 2
Living that experience taught me many lessons. It made me much more empathetic towards the marginalized and disadvantaged. In the past I had often thought, “Why can’t these folks get jobs? Why aren’t they working? Why is he wearing his underwear on the outside of his pants?” Now I know that’s easy to say if you are a person who knows the proper undergarment layer order, or you have an appearance that is inviting instead of off-putting, or you just naturally know how to walk tall and speak eloquently. I also now know first hand that if you are not those things, some in society may devalue and judge you harshly. From what I experienced, you must also care for yourself if you wish to have others care for you, too. Like it or not, first impressions count. And if we are to control how we wish others to view us, then we must match our actions to our intentions.Thanks for joining us on this leg of the journey. We appreciate you tuning in. We’ll have another post next week.Until next time, Sarah