Next morning, say, on your way to work, you see, scuttling on the street, tacky, red-eyed women who look like they’ve been up all night, who, at the approach of a cop car, duck in doorways or down alleys, you should withhold condescending judgment. Suspend your certainty that they’re natural-born sluts who inherently prefer whoring night and day for a crack hit to honest work.
No one has a gun to their heads, forcing them to flat-back in ratty apartments, nasty basements, abandoned buildings and this or that crack house. That’s true. There is more to it, though, than, as the saying goes, meets the eye. Do you really think these women started out in life with this as their ambition? They were, at some time, young, wide-eyed girls with vague, heartfelt dreams of making something special of themselves. Of amounting to more than someone who barters her body for drugs.
Somewhere on the way to womanhood, long before the first sizzling rock on a clouded glass phallus, they received the blow in life from which they may never recover. Somewhere along the line, they got the message — 10 times out of nine by being beaten and raped — that they don’t count as human beings. Somewhere along the line they came to, deep inside, believe it.
Today, the crack-pipe clouds hit a female’s lungs, engulfing her sense of self in the euphoric illusion that everything’s okay. The pain goes away. She doesn’t worry about being dehumanized. She can live with being valued solely for the content of her crotch. These women and girls, much as they can, cut off their emotions. Their humanity. Oblivion obscures anguish, emotional pain, years of believing they’re worthless. They feel good. For a while.
Self-worth, self-esteem is about getting over. Beating the next ho’ to turning a trick. Determinedly conniving, beating that trick out of his last dollar. To get high. It’s a matter of living to smoke and smoking to live. The notion of amounting to anything more is buried in the gut. Suffocated in an emotional coffin. A spiritual graveyard.
Most of these women will die from any one of a number of causes. Ruptured heart vessel. AIDS. Some fight over drugs or money. More than a few are murdered. Few die of old age. The actual cause of death will be that, early in life, they learned to despise themselves, grew convinced they deserve to lead a sub-human existence. And acted with fixed determination on what they learned. What they were convinced is their lot.
None of this is your fault or responsibility. Just the same, next time you see a disheveled, desperately furtive woman looking like she’s gone through hell and is headed right back, don’t be quick to look down your nose. Be slow to judge why she’s doing what she’s doing. At least take a moment to bear in mind that she quite likely began life as a little girl. As an innocent who never dreamt for a minute of growing up to be a crack whore.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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