classism prejudice racism social justice

safety along color lines

i’ll never forget when, visiting my mom’s childhood home in a perfectly safe, perfectly normal south side of chicago neighborhood, the ex-spouse shared a story with me of his experience growing up on the north side of chicago. when he was a kid, and his family would drive further south through majority black neighborhoods, his dad often told him and his sister to “put their heads down” so as not to be seen. as an adult, he (the ex) was embarrassed by the story. i was amused. his dad made him hide–ostensibly so the scary black people in the scary ghetto didn’t see his white-passing kids and…i don’t know…carjack him so as to steal them? i should add that ex’s father was a relatively brown ecuadorian immigrant who never quite reconciled his issues with his own otherness in this country. 🤷🏾‍♀️

a conversation this weekend reminded me of ex’s story, and the fact that white folks are still largely afraid of majority black, poor neighborhoods. now, no one used the word ‘ghetto’ because we’re all a lot more aware these days, but the implication was blatant. when i dismissively announced that whites are likely far safer in a poor black neighborhood than other black folks, the disbelief was palpable. this is not meant to call anyone out, and i’m not attacking anyone. instead, i mean this an encouragement to dig deep into your ideas about crime, poverty, and how certain, let’s call them “racialized ideas” might influence your perceptions of the relative safety–or lack thereof–of certain environments.

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