The meetings, the vigils, the oh-so-sincere concern ... they're always the same. But nothing ever changes because the status quo is too entrenched, and people are too afraid to challenge their established prejudices. For example, the much-scapegoated methadone clinics, which not only don't contribute to neighborhood problems, but actually helped (while they were here) to reduce them.
This innocent citizen was the victim of a huge, huge cultural divide. He tried to do what seemed to him as the only decent thing, and because of his color and his demeanor (as well as, maybe, other things), it cost him his life. People don't want to acknowledge the constant tension between the two worlds that uneasily co-exist side-by-side in the neighborhood. I see it as cultural, but there's a very big racial component to it.
I can guarantee you that some black man, probably a young black man, was acting thuggish somehow. The citizen - who represented everything this hypothetical young man hated - got involved, and the young man's anger was instantly redirected. He may not have meant to outright kill the citizen, or he may not have cared either way. He was likely under the influence of alcohol, and also probably feeling the need to uphold his hard-core image.
Inner city culture is very predatory. It reflects our predatory society. I see it all as connected, but people like Kathy Henderson and others on the listserv see it in black and white, citizens vs criminals terms. Kathy and her disciples think an extreme authoritarian approach is the only solution, and that anyone who disagrees (like me) is siding with the criminals ... even though time and time again, this path has provably only made things worse.
To be safe, you need to learn which set of rules is appropriate for whatever situation you're in. Until then, don't put yourself in situations you're not 100% sure of. I don't mean you can't physically be there, just stay focused on your business, don't be distracted by anyone or anything you witness, and don't get involved in other peoples' activities. Be civil, be respectful ... but not friendly. Living your life in fear is riskier than the things you, right now, may feel afraid of.
Yes, it would suck to have to turn away from someone who needs your help, but you never, ever put your life or physical safety on the line for the sake of someone's personal property, or to help them save face. And you never, ever get involved in domestic disputes. Above all, you never let your ego into the driver's seat. Whatever's going on, it's almost certainly not about you - usually even when it seems like it is. So avoid staring, leave the area quietly and inconspicuously. Then once you're at home or in a safe area, call the police.
Oh yeah: learn to tell the difference between firecrackers, backfiring cars, and gunshots. And if you hear gunfire, hit the deck or get behind something. If you're not sure, watch what other people are doing.
This is for sure the highest profile violent crime to have occurred in the ten years we've lived here. I hope with the real economy getting worse and times getting so hard, this isn't a sign of bad things to come.
What we need is (a) for both sides to learn a lot more about each other's mannerisms and cultural imperatives (b) an end to the Drug Wars which, underneath, fuel the engine that drives this whole underground scene
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
this is one of my neighborhood friends responding to the listserv . . . i think she makes some really great points: