I’ve been traveling for about twenty hours when I climb out of the metro train.
So at first I think I’m daydreaming when a man offers me Oxycodone on the street corner. I politely decline and keep walking.
Then I notice a woman on the ground smoking from a crack pipe. I try not to stare.
I walk a few more steps. As I’m waiting to cross the road, another man pulls out a syringe in broad daylight and shoots up heroin. He keels over, stupified. The syringe remains stuck in his groin.
Above knee-level, San Francisco centre is an affluent, global city. Grand buildings stand in perfect condition as professionals walk from workplaces to public transport stops in their smart attire.
Below knee-height sit the homeless. Ordinarily, a homeless population bring bustle and noise to an area. Here, they sit and lie in clusters of living death, frozen in the shapes they formed at the moment of injection.
This silent museum of statues bears witness to horrendous poverty. Some might say it’s self-inflicted and justifies a ‘war on drugs.’
The dictionary defines genocide as the deliberate killing of a race, group or nationality of people. Admittedly, I don’t see the affluent out on the streets pointing guns at the poor.
But if there’s such a thing as genocide by neglect, then it’s happening right at our knees.
And it’s not taking place in an impoverished African nation (many of which I’ve visited and felt safer in). In one of the wealthiest nations in the world, this largely black group of impoverished people are heartlessly and inhumanely neglected by those with money and power to help them.
They are unfortunate, not weak, for turning to drugs to escape the toughness of their daily lives.
Then, those in power in the very political and economic capitalist structures that put them on the streets on the first place can blame them.
Because in this genocide, nobody needs to kill the poor. They can be left to slowly kill themselves in plain sight.
This genocide absolves all of us who turn a blind eye to inequality of our guilt. Because it is our acts of omission that cause harm.