I was robbed at knifepoint on May 8 after using the bathroom at the City College Wellness Center.
A man approached me while I headed toward the sink and asked if he could use my phone.
“No, sorry,” I said. “I don’t do that.”
He quickly pulled out a knife and cornered me. I was going to have to make a decision.
Risk physical harm toward myself by attempting to disarm this man, or give the man what he wants and report the incident afterward were my only options.
I didn’t have much time to think, but I chose to give up my iPhone as I thought about my girlfriend, my family and all who all love me.
The man then asked me for all the money I had in my wallet.
I gave him the $11 that I had for gas.
“Stay in the bathroom for 20 seconds, and don’t you dare call the cops,” the man said.
I only counted to about ten seconds and ran outside to see how far he had fled. A group of breakdancing students were hanging out and one of them let me borrow their phone to call the police.
I spoke with the police for an hour, but by that point the man was nowhere to be found.
I wasn’t angry because a man robbed me of my iPhone. I was angry hat my back was pushed against a wall, literally, and my life and health were threatened.
“It isn’t worth it,” the officer said. “You did the right thing.”
I wouldn’t accept that and kept telling myself that I could have been a hero and either escaped or disarmed the man myself. I’m a prideful man and I wasn’t going to allow myself to feel that this was okay.
I calmed down and tried to assess the situation intellectually.
I tried to look at this from the robber’s point of view. I came to the conclusion that this man had nothing to lose.
This man has probably already been incarcerated and may have even been on probation.
Robbing people might be his only way of surviving in this society, which hasn’t allowed him an equal opportunity to succeed.
This man was African-American, around 6 feet tall and maybe 200 pounds. Our society judges him by the way he looks and he is treated unfairly when it comes to housing and employment.
If I put myself into this man’s shoes, what options would I have? How would I buy food and live if nobody hired me or paid me fairly?
If I were desperate like him, I might resort to doing the same thing. The man who robbed me didn’t look like he wanted to harm me, but if he had to, he might have.
While my back was against a wall at that moment, my attacker is living his life with his back against a wall.
Law enforcement is after him. He is putting himself in danger every time robs someone.
Now, I may be wrong about him. Maybe he does have a job, maybe he has not been to prison and maybe he does have a family and a significant other that loves him.
I do not know, but desperate people do desperate things.
I don’t care how tough people say they are. It takes a lot of courage to rob somebody on a school campus of about 85,000 students, when there is a high possibility of getting caught. (Except at our school, apparently).
This incident has taught me that I live a privileged life.
I am an Asian-American man. I haven’t committed any felonies or misdemeanors. I am a journalism student at City College and I do not have to resort to committing crimes in order to survive.
I do hope that justice is served for the crime that this man committed. I also hope and pray for disadvantaged people to stay strong, to turn it around and to beat the system.
When I say “‘beat the system” I don’t mean committing crimes. The way to beat the system is to find employment or go to school to develop the skills to find better jobs.
This man got away, for now. I am certain that if he continues to commit crimes he will get caught one day and he will go to prison, then get released and continue in that cycle.
After telling this story, I do not believe that minorities are being treated fairly by law enforcement, but it is not law enforcement’s fault either. It is the criminal justice system that creates a cycle that traps minorities into the standard that our law enforcement holds against them.
- Ivan Huang, 20, City College of San Francisco