Racist or being careful?
East of Easy Street (washingtonpost.com)
I really liked this article, of course it takes place in the cool section of Shaw but it tells the story of all Shaw. I especially liked “date me, date my hood.”
Yet the thing that got me thinking was the author’s (white) accusation of his friends’ racism towards the neighborhood, in their attitude and comments.
As I related the story to friends, one said, “Well, at least he had the courtesy to look before shooting you.” If my friends were being racist, they didn’t think they were. In their view, they were simply being suitably cautious about where they lived and drove.
The rest of the article just talks about how, as a white guy, he assimilated into the neighborhood and the 7-11 at the corner of 7th and Rhode Island. I know that 7-11, I know of the Calvin of whom he speaks. I know it is where the cops hang out when they are ignoring things or taking a break.
But back to the main topic. I hear it all the time in little code words. “Safe neighborhood”, “good neighborhood” and other things. In a discussion group for swing dancers someone announced an event on U Street, towards 14th Street. Someone else, an upper-middle class girl from Mt. Vernon, VA, said the neighborhood wasn’t safe and you should watch out. It’s the frickin’ city. Yes, there is more crime, might have something to do with the higher concentration of people. But does it deserve to be written off as an unsafe neighborhood.
Then I got to thinking some more. Is there a safe, good black neighborhood? I’m sure there are places in Upper Marlboro, PG County that are, but they aren’t near a metro, so they don’t exist. Then that’s another factor, class. Upper Marlboro is/was a very upper and middle class black area. I know my own relatives (black, in case you didn’t know), living in Laurel and Riverdale dislike my neighborhood (which is why my will has a non-relative inheriting my house). In their case I call it classism. Lewisdale, is okay, working class, safe enough but it doesn’t scream safe from outward appearances. And is that what a lot of it is? Outward appearances?
My hood. Okay for me, bad for cars, really bad for people buying drugs (it increases your chance of getting shot), and crappy for quality of life issues, but it’s mine.