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Panhandling, offensive comments and the intersection of race and class | READER COMMENTARY

Matt Quinlan of Housing Our Neighbors holds a sign at a homeless camp in Baltimore as it is removed by city workers. File. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun).
Matt Quinlan of Housing Our Neighbors holds a sign at a homeless camp in Baltimore as it is removed by city workers. File. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun). (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

I am writing in response to the recent commentary, “When I ignored the panhandler, I was rude, but I wasn’t racist” (Oct. 19). I found the op-ed to be very striking for a few reasons. For one, I am a young female, who is often a target of panhandler remarks as I walk or drive in or around the city. However, the main reason that this article stuck with me is because I think it opens a very important discussion as to how we see ourselves and how others view our identities.

For example, I am a white woman who often walks with her guard up, and when I walk alone I try to cover up and “walk with a purpose” as my parents always told me. I was told my whole life that I was an easier target of attack because I am a smaller woman. I view my surroundings through this lens because of what I have been taught and the things that I have experienced in my life.

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This panhandler may experience a similar thing. Though I cannot speak on whether he actually thought the man walking by was racist or if he just wanted to tug at his anger, it does make you think about the experience that those around us face. How often has this man in his life faced discrimination because of his race? Does he fear others because of his race? While panhandling on a normal day, what words are said to him because of his race? Does he see white people treat white panhandlers differently?

While this may have been unfair to automatically call someone racist, individuals speak and act based on their experiences, and I think that this is very important for people, especially those with privileges that others do not have, to understand.

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Emma Haffer, Dundalk

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