Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Living In Fear

I grew up in a rough area of London during a time when there was a lot of racism on the streets. It was the 1970’s and the British Nationalist Party (then the National Front) were becoming too popular. I learned to be constantly aware of where I was walking, never wearing headphones (we had walkmans then), never going on the top of a double-decker bus, watching for alleys and dark driveways etc.

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It was a stage that I am glad I have passed through (I still cross the road if I see a group of white men with short hair or shaved heads), but half our population doesn’t get that opportunity.

A female friend of mine, young and attractive, with long blond hair, said these words a few weeks back that are still haunting me: Every woman imagines her own rape. She was quoting someone else, but I could only think of those women I know and love.

When she had moved to the city, her mother had urged her to cut her beautiful hair short, warned her never to wear flip-flops (the attacker can step on them from behind and trip you), and brought her pepper spray.

When my wife began working at a clinic in a rough area and needed to lock up in the dark and walk to her car in a deserted car park, I bought the best pepper spray I could find. I was probably more scared than she was, but it was an insight into what goes through every woman’s head.

images-2 We live in a country where we believe we are free. The question is, are we truly free, when half of our population needs to continually look over their shoulder?

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter. For more about the author, check out his website.

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