The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

13 April 2004

Around the mental block

The other day (well, Sunday, actually) I expressed the opinion that an unnamed Oklahoma City neighborhood was capital-S Scary. Over in San Francisco, Bill Quick lives in a neighborhood that some people regard that way, but he's not the least bit fearful:

My neighborhood is about sixty percent black, twenty percent Hispanic, ten percent Asian, and ten white. Some of the worst, most dangerous public housing projects are within five or six blocks of my house. But my neighbors are good people. We are like most other neighbors. We wave at each other, stop and chat, exchange tips on how to encourage the grass on our tiny lawns, bitch about the condo association, worry about our spouses and our kids and our car payments, gripe about the politicians, and in general are indistinguishable from any other group of suburban town-house owning, mortgage carrying, weed-whacker-wielding, backyard-barbecuing denizens you could find anywhere in the U.S.

The "bad part of town," for us, at least, is "over the top of the hill." We don't go there, not if we can help it, none of us black or white, yellow or brown. It's dangerous up there. That's the land of welfare, subsidized housing, entitlement, ghettoization — and drug wars and gangs and murder at the drop of a hat. Yet even there, the hard core of the hard core — those who do the actual slanging and banging — number less than a hundred. The rest are hangers-on and wannabes, but they aren't killers. Not yet. And everybody else pays the price for the reluctance of the government — for racist reasons or whatever — to pull those hundred off the street, lock them up, and throw away the key.

But we who live here — the home-owning, tax-paying citizens who "play by the rules" — don't really feel terrorized. We don't live in fear, the way those poor (in so many ways) people do who live at ground zero, in the war zone. But we don't have to. Our soil is not the malign dirt of the welfare state in which so much evil grows so easily. No, that place is over the hill, over that way. Not where I and my neighbors live.

Methinks I doth protest too much, or at the very least too early.

The neighborhood I lived in before the acquisition of Surlywood seemed to be following the same path that leads "over the top of the hill," likely for the very same reasons. Certainly we had no shortage of subsidized tenants, and the crime rate spoke for itself. But I don't have any figures for, um, Scarytown, so it's possible I might be unreasonably maligning the area.

Still, when I mentioned it to some coworkers, most of them visibly shuddered.

Posted at 11:00 AM to Dyssynergy

There's a big difference between driving past an area, and living in it. And I think it takes living in an area that drivers-by consider "scary" -- as I too have done -- to really understand that difference.

Posted by: McGehee at 7:31 PM on 13 April 2004