Yesterday, Vice had an article giving Reasons Why San Francisco Is The Worst Place Ever. The authors, Dave Schilling and Jules Suzdaltsev, criticize easy targets like the tech workers that have recently moved into the city, “They’re the fucking worst” apparently, and Fisherman’s Wharf for being the crazy tourist trap that it truly is. Dog shit on sidewalks, cash only businesses, and our laughable public transport were also mentioned.
But what rubbed me the wrong way was the authors’ inclusion of “Haight-Ashbury Street Kids” half way through their ill-informed list.
Remember how we were saying we missed San Francisco’s “local color”? Well, there’s a dark side to that, and it’s not concerned with the cost of rent. The stinky weirdoes who beg for change and scream profanities at anyone who looks too “normal” will never leave San Francisco. The parks, bus benches, and gutters are their home. Their only calling is to ruin your day. We don’t even hate hippies that much. We’re all just trying to get by, and hippies are occasionally creative or interesting. The street kids in Haight-Ashbury don’t produce anything other than contempt. They’re mean to everyone, and aren’t shy about expressing themselves. They’re so shitty that if you give them leftovers from a restaurant, you might want to be sure they don’t spit the food back in your face and piss on your leg.
The rhetoric in this little hateful excerpt is not only ignorant, irresponsible and lazy, but something every writer fears: cliche. Describing these “Street Kids”, who are actually twenty year olds affected by mental illness, childhood abuse, addiction, disability, or homelessness, as “stinky weirdos”, “mean”, and “shitty”, is just exploiting a common stereotype that is easy to write about.
I admit that on several occasions I’ve been tempted to write about some of the scenes I’ve see on Haight St involving “Street Kids” due to their amazing comedic value. But jokes aren’t all that funny when you’re making fun of a community that often times can not speak for itself.
Sadly, it’s published articles like this that further hinders these human beings from receiving the help, guidance, or understanding they need. By perpetuating the image of those living on the street as deserving of contempt, unappreciative of help, and just plain old crazy, how can we ever expect society to care enough about their plight and the others it affects?
Vice is usually known for publishing provocative articles and opinion pieces that shed light on fringe subjects and unreported events; not stepping in line with mainstream opinions, especially not of people.