Three or four classrooms full of children, all around 9 or 10 years of age, were put together to take a historically oriented field trip to downtown Seattle. This was the mid-1980s, when it seemed that the homeless population had, if not reached a peak, penetrated the Pioneer Square area of Seattle… and the (paranoid) consciousness of suburbanite schoolteachers and parents. Enough visibility and paranoia that the homeless presence warranted ‘warnings’, apparently. I don’t know if these warnings were issued because 100+ unruly children are hard enough to control under the best of circumstances, so the adults thought they would ‘scare’ us into submission, or if the teachers and school really believed that the homeless population was a grave threat to us (“us” the children or all of us as a society).

We were told not just to not interact with “them”, but not even to look at “them”. “Ignore them, as if they don’t exist.” All I do know is that the message they branded on our young, malleable brains was: “You don’t need to care about these throwaway people.”

This still comes to mind and bothers me now, 30+ years later.

Photo by Zhifei Zhou on Unsplash