Today, as I was walking down Durant Avenue in Berkeley, I passed by a news anchorwoman setting up a camera next to Top Dog. This didn’t surprise me, given the recent news about one of the store’s employees marching in the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville over the weekend. Someone on Twitter had dug out this man’s identity, prompting Tog Dog to release a statement later that day, declaring the man no longer employed.
On my way back up the street, I saw the news anchorwoman interviewing a man wearing a bright yellow construction vest. I wasn’t sure if he was an employee at Top Dog, or if he was just a random passerby that the woman had invited to step in front of the camera for a clip.
Either way, everyone else — which also happened to include many new Cal students and their entire families because it was UC Berkeley’s official move-in day — was carrying about their business as usual. Some were sat in nearby stoops, eating hot dogs. Others were waiting in line, just a couple feet away from the interview.
There’s a joke that Berkeley students have become so accustomed to the abnormal that now, nothing fazes them. But the crowd of people gathered nearby weren’t students. Or rather, they were new students so their habituation to the extraordinary happenings of Berkeley shouldn’t have happened yet. And wouldn’t their parents wonder about these sorts of scenes, given that they’re trying to move their children into this new city?
The sight of this juxtaposition perturbed me a little, but since I had to return to work, I didn’t think too much of it.
It was only later, when I searched for the finished news clip on Kron 4, that I realized all the people interviewed in the segment were people of color. And this realization only made the scene from earlier in the day bother me more.
When I’d passed by Top Dog, I had been running an errand for work. But even then, I’d slowed down, taken out my headphones to linger for a moment more to see if I could hear anything that was being said about the former Top Dog employee or the events at Charlottesville.
Making assumptions about strangers is dangerous territory, but I do hope that all the people gathered around Top Dog were indifferent about the camera because they’d already heard the news, and not because they were actually apathetic about the violence that had transpired over the weekend.
Many people today have been commenting or sharing posts on social media about the lack of posts they’ve seen from others, condemning the violence, racism, and hatred that was displayed in Charlottesville.
While I can understand the root of these sentiments — the fear that a lack of posts corresponds to a lack of care — I also hate to speak too soon and judge someone’s social media activity to be completely representative of where their opinions truly fall.
I know many people are struggling to find the right words to say and the best things to do in the aftermath of Charlottesville. I sometimes fall in that boat as well, which is why I hope sharing articles like this one — a piece that goes beyond an analysis of the situation and urges its readers to act — will similarly encourage others to continue seeking to do more.
And then, to actually do more.