Dependable Erection

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Racism in Trinity Park

I've gone back and forth about publishing this post over the last day or so, and i still reserve the right to change my mind again and yank it 20 minutes after i hit the publish button.

So yesterday morning, i got an email from a reader, forwarding a post from the Trinity Park listserv. The author of the post had his house burgled, and responded with an email of the kind that almost always starts out with some flavor of "I'm not a racist, but . . ." A neighbor had seen the perp, and described him as a Black man with a parka. The author asked his neighbors to call the police if they saw any "minorities" near his house in the future.

If you don't see how that's a racist statement, try this thought experiment. Last week, three School of Science and Math students were held up at gunpoint near their campus in the Watts Hospital-Hillandale neighborhood. The suspect was described as a white male in a dark sedan. Imagine an email to concerned residents asking them to call 911 whenever they saw a white man in a dark sedan in the vicinity of NCSSM.

Absurd, right?

Or imagine if the perp had red hair and freckles. (Mrs. D reports that she was mugged once in San Francisco by a guy with red hair and freckles.) Could you conceivably put a post out asking for the police to be called whenever someone with red hair and freckles was near your house without being mocked?

I don't think you can possibly claim that it's not racist. I don't know the guy who wrote it, and that's one of the reasons why i didn't publish that email yesterday. For all i know he's a really nice guy who was angry and upset about having his home broken into (and believe me, i know exactly how he feels) who just misspoke. He did, after all, apologize for his remarks several times on the Trinity Park listserv.

So why was this comment acceptable to any of the several residents of Trinity Park who devoted so much energy to defending it the past day and a half?

I can probably make a quick list in my head of the people XXXXXX is likely to have visit him, and all of them are white. So, rather than being racist, my neighbor has made a good logical deduction (XXXXXX, this one is for you):

1. We don't expect anyone other than [People X, Y, and Z], who all happen to be white, to visit the house.

2. Thus, anyone who doesn't match that description (in this case "white") and is hanging around was NOT invited, and is likely up to no good.

I can understand that many people would take this the wrong way and have their feelings hurt. However, I'm pretty sure he meant that anyone other than those he would expect to visit him *hanging around* (not merely passing by, XXXXXX, although can I understand why you're angry) should warrant enough suspicion to have the police involved.

Right, so people who aren't People X,Y, and Z, but who do happen to be white, what about them? They get a pass because they're white? Sorry, that's not logic. That's racism.

And the rest of the folks who chimed in to defend these racist comments really can't be excused. They can only be pitied and reviled.

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  • I don't live in Trinity Park, so I don't know how diverse that nabe is or isn't.

    The choice of language is unfortunate. Just stick to the facts. "anyone you don't know to be from the neighborhood" would be more accurate, actually, then spouting off about "minorities".

    But if folks are pissed off about getting ripped off, they have every right to be. Just remember that the internet records everything. I say this as someone who's been broken into 4 times, one of those times I caught the perp but he ran off.

    By Blogger Tony, at 10:05 PM  

  • Yeah, i had my cars broken into 7 times in 7 years in California, and my house twice.

    Funny thing here in Durham, in 15 years, i've had a battery stolen from an unlocked truck, and a lawnmower stolen from my front yard.

    Yes, it pisses me off when it happens. But the answer isn't to say call the cops on anyone who's black, or even anyone you don't know. It can be a fine line between suspicious and innocent behavior. I have no problems asking the police to check out someone who's suspicious on the block. Being brown or black is not suspicious.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 10:22 PM  

  • i've been robbed in raleigh, chapel hill and carrboro. that's why i moved to durham :).

    By Blogger libby, at 11:38 PM  

  • I've been watching the monkey s--t fight over the last couple of days, and while I agree the robbery victim made a rash and unfortunate choice of language, I do disagree with the this post. I think it's completely reasonable to describe the physical attributes of a perp. If I'm mugged by a red-headed Asian dwarf with a spike through his head, I'll use that description. The preface of "I hate to say it..." is indicative of the jitteriness that we middle-class millennial-types feel when we bring up race in describing someone, in good situations and bad. If we're looking for our friend Joe in a bar full of people, there should be no reason to be chastised if we use "..have you seen a well-built black guy in a red sweater.." And incidently, I've been referred to as the tall, skinny white guy enough to know it's the "skinny" part that bothers me the most...

    By Blogger Velvet Martini, at 8:37 AM  

  • it is of course completely OK to describe the perp as "a black man." You cross the line is when you say, "If you see a black man near my property, call the police." I thought i made that point clear, but perhaps i didn't.

    Imagine an email that read "My house was broken in to yesterday. My neighbor saw the guy, and says he's an African-American, about 6 feet tall, maybe 180 - 195 pounds. He was wearing a dark green parka with the hood pulled over his face, so he didn't get a good look at him. He also wore blue jeans and brown construction boots. If you see anyone matching that description, or anyone loitering around my house, please call 911."

    I don't think that email is racist.

    But to make the "logical deduction" that all of X's friends are white, therefore, any white people hanging around X's house are OK, but any people of color hanging around X's house are suspicious," well, that's a bit more problematic.

    See the difference?

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 9:14 AM  

  • I would have no problem with the description you gave an example for Barry regarding the white man. If it is a neighborhood that is 95% minority and a white man has committed a crime in that neighborhood what is the problem with saying be on you toes if you see a unknown white man? No your neighbor or a friend but unknown white person.

    Do you think when the Hispanics were being targeted and all the perps were described as black males that the Hispanics would not have been correct in saying be careful if you see a black MAN in the looking suspicious?

    I do not know the stats but I can tell you that TP proper is not a diverse oasis. At parties, park events etc I may see 2-3% minorities (that is being generous). And the ones I have seen tend to be interracial couples. Our closest friends in TP is an interracial gay couple. We are good friends with one minority couple from TP but their schedules keep them busy and they are moving. I guess we will have to demand a minority couple move in to preserve our diverse oasis.

    Diversity of thought is definitely lacking in TP.

    By Blogger TrinityRez, at 9:21 AM  

  • Barry, doesn't it bother you to live in a neighborhood so nearly segregated that to be a black is a marker for being an "outsider"? What are you doing to increase the diversity in your neighborhood?

    By Blogger Locomotive Breath, at 10:30 AM  

  • What exactly do you suggest he do, Locomotive Breath?

    By Blogger Lisa B., at 11:38 AM  

  • How exciting, I've been called a racist! I'm the neighbor of the burglary vitcim whose email was quoted so nicely.

    "Right, so people who aren't People X,Y, and Z, but who do happen to be white, what about them? They get a pass because they're white? Sorry, that's not logic. That's racism."

    Well, I suppose I could have made a pictoral directory of everyone who is ok to be on the premises, but my point was to clarify that none them would be non-white, although not because my neighbor is a racist (I assure you, he's not). He doesn't have many visitors, and all of them happen to be white.

    White people who are not X Y and Z also are suspicious and ideally should be reported, but neighbors really have no way to know who is known to the resident and who is not. In this case, race is a descriptor, it has nothing to do with prejudice!

    Please let me know if I need to clarify this further, I really would like this to be understood by folks.

    By Blogger amyrlin, at 7:13 AM  

  • Personally, i think you should quit while you're ahead. First rule of holes and all that, you know.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 7:59 AM  

  • As in every case, the correct thing to say would be 'if you see someone matching the description, please...'

    The specific language used is racist, because it encouraged people to call the police on anyone from a specific race. That black people tend to get disproportionately harassed by police anyway only exacerbates the issue.

    Imagine if whenever a black person committed a crime in a mostly-white neighborhood, police set up road blocks all around and stopped every single black person, letting everyone else pass without question. That would clearly be a racist action by police. In fact, it would also probably decrease the chances of the actual perpetrator being caught, because of the massive amount of work the police would have to do. Racism isn't useful, as well as being abhorrent.

    By Blogger DurhamFood, at 8:33 AM  

  • *sigh*

    I geuss I just feel that the whole problem is really due to a lack of effective communication rather than racial prejudice. See, I know that my neighbor and friend is not a racist, and therefore I would like to defencd him when everyone starts making nasty comments. However, I see that without knowing the man who said it, that comment can be perceived as racist. So what I really wanted was to try and mediate an understanding between the two groups by explaining what was really *meant* by the comment. Do you at least see where I'm coming from?

    I was really upset by the posts from one person in the neighborhood who seemed more interested in perpetuating the conflict rahter than trying to get to the bottom of it, and now she seems to think I'm a racist, too.

    So I guess I'm not defending the statement, because obviously it's horribly-worded (which I can forgive my friend because he was at the time very upset...), but rather the man who made it and the reasoning behind it.

    I'm really not trying to dig a hole or anything, I just wanted people to try and understand each other instead of escalating a flame-war.

    By Blogger amyrlin, at 8:34 AM  

  • Let's play black or white:

    Barack Obama?

    Derek Jeter?

    Shane Battier?

    Halle Berry?

    Tiger Woods*?

    Ryan Giggs?

    Remee and Kian Horder?


    * Trick question!

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 8:45 AM  

  • So, for the sake of argument, let's say everyone in the neighborhood knows everyone else by sight and is therefore capable of identifying non-residents.

    A non-resident just hanging around or going around the neighborhood checking multiple doors is potentially up to no good and might be worth additional scrutiny. Or they could be Mormons. Which some people argue are up to no good.

    Unfortunately, not everyone in the neighborhood knows everyone by sight. And the neighborhood is almost all white.

    So, say what you want, when the Eskimos show up in the neighborhood, you'd better keep an eye on them.

    amyrlin, give it up. Barry's called you a racist and there's nothing you can do. His say is final. You're doomed. I'm surprised he can tolerate living nearby.

    Then again, after calling his neighbors names, he may be surprised when he doesn't get the invite to the next block party.

    By Blogger Locomotive Breath, at 8:56 AM  

  • And the neighborhood is almost all white.

    According to the county's voter registration rolls, Precinct 2 (Watts Elementary, Trinity Park) has 2351 registered voters.

    Of these, 1344 are "white", 706 are "black", 111 are "asian", 82 are "undesignated", 52 are "other", 51 are "multi-race", and 3 are "American Indian".

    I have no idea if blacks and whites and asians, etc., are registered to vote in the same proportion. Assuming they are, that means about 57% of the population of Trinity Park is white. If whites are registered to vote in higher proportion, that means they are overrepresented in the voter registration sample, and constitute less than 57% of the overall population.

    Maybe on your planet 57% counts as "almost all." But really, why should you let facts get in the way of your idiocy. You don't seem to have ever done that before.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 9:13 AM  

  • Hypothetical discussion. Cf. "for the sake of argument".

    By Blogger Locomotive Breath, at 9:18 AM  

  • So, hypothetically, Trinity Park is "almost all white?"

    In the real world, not so much.

    But as appears so obvious, your connection to the real world is tenuous at best.

    You don't have a job, do you?

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 9:26 AM  

  • One of the things about this incident that really bugged me deeply is that it became very clear very quickly that most people in Trinity Park get way more upset about sarcasm than they do about bigotry. Yes, I made a sarcastic comment, intended to point out the bigotry and absurdity in someone else's post. That got people a lot more incensed than a comment which was very clearly racist.

    At any rate, my soon-to-be-ex-husband (one of those "minorities"), made some great comments I really want the world (especially those people who keep bleating "we're not racist!" while defending blatant bigotry) to read. You can find them here:

    By Blogger Lisa B., at 9:56 AM  

  • OK, blogger truncated my link.
    Try this one:

    By Blogger Lisa B., at 9:58 AM  

  • So, hypothetically, Trinity Park is "almost all white?"

    In the real world, not so much.

    I was talking about a hypothetical all white neighborhood with Eskimos in it.

    But since you want to talk about it, this is your neighborhood. By your definition. Not mine. I'll wait while you do the math.

    Happy New Year - From our neighborhood to all of you.

    By Blogger Locomotive Breath, at 1:33 PM  

  • LB, you keep saying Barry lives in the neighborhood we're discussing. Do me a favor: click the link in your last post. See Barry's label at the bottom? It says "Duke Park."

    Barry lives in Duke Park. We're discussing Trinity Park. They both have the word "park" in them, but they're not the same neighborhood.

    But then again, if you lived in Durham, you'd know that.

    By Blogger hovercraft, at 8:21 AM  

  • But Duke University used to be called Trinity College 80 or so years ago, so i can see where she would get confused.

    By the way, here's another set of photos from my neighborhood. Remind me to explain the difference between using scientifically valid data to make a point, as opposed to random photography from the internet.

    By Blogger Barry, at 8:33 AM  

  • I'm well aware of the difference between Duke Park and Trinity Park. I'm pointing out the contrast between Barry calling a large number of other people racist and his nearly all-white New Years party.

    using scientifically valid data to make a point, as opposed to random photography from the internet.

    So a photo posted on your web site under the title "From our neighborhood to all of you" is "random photography from the internet". Must be a photo you downloaded from Idaho. Looks like they were having a mild winter.

    As far as the block party photo are concerned, I'll let you do the math and come up with the "scientifically valid data". Especially since you have many of the same people in each photo. Are those all the people who showed up on the whole block? Not much of a party.

    By Blogger Locomotive Breath, at 12:39 PM  

  • LOL. Lisa B. The dork who still wants the Duke lacrosse boys hanged and Michael Vick freed.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:50 PM  

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