This Is Our Community’s Problem

“Never cut what you can untie.”– Joseph Joubert, essayist (1754-1824)

A friend sent me this quote this morning, and, quite frankly, not a moment too soon.

I am going to try very, very carefully in the next 500 words to untie, but I’m afraid it won’t be easy.

IMG_0789First the back story: Last week I opened a notification from my neighborhood’s Nextdoor private social media website and read what I construed as a racially offensive comment. I wrote about it here.

To the moderator’s credit, he flagged the comment; and to the author’s credit, she removed it.

If the story had ended there, it would have been a tidy closing indeed: An unfortunate comment was made, and attention was paid.

Newport Buzz, a local online news source, had made one comment then a second regarding the racist undertones of the initial post; and the net result (because the comments were posted under “Newport Buzz” and not the author’s name, which is a violation of Nextdoor’s terms of use) was their comments being removed and their ultimately being banned from the site.

The following two responses appeared yesterday:

“Don’t see the comment you refer to but . . . it could not have been as you designate ‘racist’; you must have misinterpreted it . What we don’t need any more of is PC police.  Sad state of affairs and not helpful in solving our community problems.”

 “Where did this business of racist come from? What is Newport Buzz talking about? When one calls the police, they are asked to identify the perpetrator; if answers are not forthcoming, you are questioned whether the person was white, black, Hispanic, Asian… Since when is descriptive language racist? Newport Buzz should answer for this very rude charge.”

There are plenty of responses that come to mind, but, again, I am endeavoring to untie rather than cut. The first point, and this is not a subtle one, is that the initial post referred to two human beings—who were doing nothing wrong let alone illegal—as “Hispanic types.” There is no misinterpretation at work here. The comment is racially offensive. In this context, there was absolutely zero reason to refer to anyone by their ethnicity. And while I will stop short of terming this an instance of racial profiling at work in my neighborhood, I will say that my son’s future as someone of Mexican ancestry walking the city streets I have called my home, the streets I love, gives me pause.

This is not the “’PC’ police.” This is a mother of a beautiful child who fears the very neighbors who give her a pleasant smile and a warm “hello” when she walks the street will not have the same for her son.

Community problems take many forms, and not all are as glaring as unwanted graffiti on the side of a building. Some are far more insidious—and, truthfully, sad.


4 thoughts on “This Is Our Community’s Problem

  1. There comes a time when untying is “peaceful coexistence” wherein communication stops. Some really don’t deserve your thoughts, words, or company.

  2. It seems that Newport Buzz is prone to stereotyping, so I can see why they might be upset at your comments. I logged on because I had not heard of Newport Buzz before and wanted to check it out. The first story I saw is titled ‘So Two Irishmen Go Rally Racing’ which is a play on the many many Irish jokes (similar to the Polish jokes). In the article it says “the Irish always bring a level of fun (and swearing) rarely rivaled throughout the rest of the world.”. Hmm. Well, not ALWAYS. I am Irish and do not swear. To be frank, I am not even that much fun! Ha! So sadly, that Newport Buzz comment does not appear to have been an aberration.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been on a slow boil with “neighborhood group” thinking for some time now. There seems to be a “those people” attitude with many of the posts as well as creating a fear that we are living in a dangerous city. I saw the “Hispanic type” comment as well, and my slow boil went to fast. I am hoping that it comes from ignorance, but it feels more like a deliberate slam against anyone who does not meet the criteria of what their neighborhood should look like. Let’s learn to enjoy and celebrate the diversity that truly is “Historic Newport, Rhode Island.”

  4. Samantha, I learned this year that prejudice was not going to go away in my children’s lifetime, something I had naively dreamed they might see having not experienced any form of perceived discrimination despite being bi-racial by our seemingly accepting and broad-minded neighbors of Rhode Island and for that matter, New England. And then my youngest, who is quite fair but who one is commonly described as “Spanish-looking,” got his first taste. It took the son of a southern bigot to help him experience it firsthand, but to his disbelief he got it. His very close new friend from Virginia told him he could not come back to his house with him, since “my family doesn’t like niggers.” This is 2014 and this comment was said less than 2 months ago. My son laughed out loud in disbelief, thinking he was joking. But his friend wasn’t joking – at all. “It would be dangerous for you,” he warned.
    Ignorance is not going away just because we want it to. All the diversity courses, education, and award-winning 12 Years a Slave films will not remove generationally-ingrained hate. No, the children of 2014, and 2015 will not enjoy the privilege of living in a respectful, prejudice-free world as long as these people inject their poison into their progeny’s minds. They will see and feel the unwarranted hate, and wrestle with its lack of logic or truth or sense just like we have. Let’s hope its ugliness only inspires and challenges us and our children to show OUR love and kindness to the surprise of our fellow man, whatever nationality or ethnicity they – like us – found ourselves born into. To quote Bruce Lee, “I believe we are all just one family – the human family. We just happen to all be different.”

I would love to hear your thoughts . . .

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