Letter

July 24th, 2007 by Editor B

This arrived in the mail yesterday with no return address. View the large version for easier reading.

Letter

Note: I cut the writer’s name off to preserve his/her privacy.

This letter is in response to the most recent article about us in the Times-Picayune. The writer means well, but the discerning reader will not have to strain much to discover a certain subtext. I guess this pretty much stands on its own. I don’t have much to add except…

The teens on our porch are definitely not scaring the neighbors away. I can say this with some confidence because the teens are the neighbors. I mean, they’re from the families who are moving. No one around here is scared of them. They’re just trying to get away from the family for a little bit. You know how teens are.

16 Responses to “Letter”

  1. GentillyGirl Says:

    I see the subtext, and I don’t care for it.

    What you are doing in your neighborhood is what we are trying to do in ours: MAKE connections with our neighbors.

  2. Julesb_town Says:

    i love it that you let the teenagers hang out on your porch! better there than many other places. Fear…seems to be everywhere these days…locally we need to reach out to neighbors- teens expecially-
    peace to you and XY

  3. chrissieroux Says:

    Wow–that’s so sad.

    Are you going to write back?

  4. chrissieroux Says:

    Never mind–no return address.

  5. Joe Says:

    Yeah, but the Times-Picayune article has some of that subtext too. Apparently, neighbors hanging out on each others’ porches constitutes “anything but dull!”

    Hoo-eee! I knew New Orleans was a party town, but I never saw anything like that in DC! Laissez le bon temps roulez! It’s porch sittin’ time!

  6. Vicky Says:

    That’s disturbing.

  7. Puddinhead Says:

    Let’s not jump to condemn a guy over a “subtext” that WE’RE all reading into this. Sure, this might have been the kind of letter that a “mildly racist” (as opposed to “rabidly racist”, I guess) person might have written…but it also would be the kind of letter I’d expect from an older white resident who watches the news at night and is just scared. I can almost (almost, I said) see their point when you feel like you see one story after another of some car full of thugs spraying a crowded porch of innocents because they have a beef with one particular not-completely-innocent who showed up with his buddy that particular day.

    A person lets fear control their actions based on the severity of the perceived threat. In years past when a much higher percentage of our murders were crimes of passion rather than murder as just a part of doing business, the “perceived threat” was probably that one might fall victim to an armed robber, but that he probably wouldn’t use the gun because he knew (back then) that they tried a lot harder to find murderers than they did armed robbers. Not that it doesn’t feel like a helluva threat when you have a gun barrel jamming into the back of your skull–I know from personal experience. But now the “perceived threat” for many is, sadly, that wherever groups of young black males congregate without supervision that the chances of becoming “collateral damage” goes up. And it isn’t (again, sadly) completely illogical to thnk that when the ruthlessness of those thugs who ARE the problem (and who I seriously doubt are hanging out on Bart’s porch) is such that you practically don’t go two weeks without the murder of someone who was a completely innocent bystander who just happened to get in the way (like the late Mr. Shavers).

    So now your letter writer doesn’t necessarily have to be someone who sees all African-American male youths as criminally inclined…he (or she) can feel almost legitimate in being afraid that just one of the teens on your porch somehow crossed one of our thugs. Maybe something as simple as having “dropped a dime” (I guess in the days when everyone has cellphones, no one really “drops a dime” on anyone any more…) on a low-life who tried to turn your neighbor’s little brother into a runner…or his sister into part of the thug’s customer base. It doesn’t necessarily take an illegal act to court retaliation now, and in New Orleans today retaliation is swift, violent, and careless.

    Do we let the fear control us, and run us all off of our porches? Not yet, anyway…at least for me. But do we condemn any who acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons for concern (which some will feel as fear)? I don’t think so.

  8. Garvey Says:

    Being “racist” and believing in stereotypes isn’t the same thing.

  9. Courreges Says:

    I concur with Puddinhead. If people are perceiving it as racist to be wary of letting youths gather on one’s porch in a city with major problems with youth violence, a city where there have been drive-by murders on porches, they’re simply not facing reality. It is not unreasonable to be concerned, and it’s wise to protect yourself.

    Still, it’s kind of weird to write to a stranger like that. I wouldn’t have appreciated the unsolicited advice myself.

  10. Alan Gutierrez Says:

    Garvey puts it succinctly.

    I’ll take someone’s breathless warnings about safety under advisement, but that sort of worry probably has more to do with a worrying personality, not hatred. There are stories of people who were too kind hearted and where there after taken advantage of. You don’t know what motivated that letter, out of the blue. Fear obviously. I wouldn’t turn it into hate by striking back at the person.

    It’s not a pleasant subtext. It is not uncommon, however. You’re not going to get anywhere building bridges if something like this is shouted down. HUG DAMN YOU! is not going to bring about the reconciliation we desire.

    Explain what you have explained; these are teenagers in your neighborhood. They are your neighbors.

  11. Puddinhead Says:

    I think Alan’s right on this. You (Bart) know these neighborhood teens; you know there’s no threat there. The writer apparently doesn’t know them. As Courreges points out, when most violence is being perpetrated in disproportionate numbers by those who just happen to fit into a particular demographic, it’s not unreasonable to be a little uneasy when confronted by a group of individuals who also just happen to fall into the same demographic…if you don’t know them. That’s not to say that you treat young black men as criminals or potential criminals just because most of our murders now involve young black men, obviously. Besides just being patently wrong, we all know how much animosity has been bred through the years just because so many do just that. And I’m not even saying I’d feel the “concern” that the writer apparently feels myself; I lived in the Ninth Ward until I was an adult, and then moved to Gentilly. My neighbors have always been predominantly African-American, so when I see black faces I generally see “neighbor” rather than “threat”. But that may not be the case for the writer. I simply meant to point out that in this situation there could be valid motive other than racism.

    All that being said….if I’d received that letter, I’d probably have had the same reaction as Bart. LOL

  12. Frank S. Says:

    I don’t know what motivated that letter writer myself. I prefer to think their concern for their neighbors [in this case, Editor B.] is as genuienly motiovated as Barts’ concern for his neighbors [in his case, those young men on the stoop of his home]. They don’t know any better [about Bart or his neighbors]. I do like how Bart looks after his community better [a handshake, knowning someone's name, looking out for them in stead of them] but I don’t want to make the same mistake as the letter writer about the letter writer & guess they are busy sending money to the local Hitler youth group and/or managing a “white power” website just because they are afraid and speak in the code about “the teenagers” on Bart’s stoop. I am just glad he didn’t write some letter accusing him of being a dealer or a pedaghast because he always has to teenagers on his stoop or called the FBI that Bart & XY are forming some kind anti-government group to stop the rabbid nuttiness of Jordon/Reiley/Nagan et al. Or even report them as being some cousins of Samantha Stevens and starting a Coven in Mid-city!

    Some of the subtext in the letter is kind of sad, because I’m thinking these folks never leave their homes and stare out the window all day long or spend too much time thinking about their pasts [which weren't really any better, they were just different] but none of that is against the law, just sad. I’d just thank them for the letter & move on. Besides, Bart’s & XY’s way of doing things IS scarier [cause you don't always know what is going on with everyone around you and you are putting yourself out their trusting people], but it is a better way. IMNSHO being afraid of each other is TOO MUCH WORK and a drain on the already precious resources of this city and your lives. What is it they say about deeds, not words?

  13. Garvey Says:

    Regardless of content, my first reaction was, “Wow, a *handwritten* letter!”

    I wish I got more–or any–of those.

  14. chrissieroux Says:

    Maybe fear and stereotypes are not the same thing as racism, but they certainly have a tendency to breed racism. What is prejudice, bigotry, after all? Fear of the Other.

  15. Alan Gutierrez Says:

    1989. Dave, Adam and myself. Dave and I are telling others about the Michigan Central Station on Michigan Ave across from Tiger Stadium. It is a decaying 18 story structure that becomes more iconic each year it remains standing. Adam begins to admonish Dave for going into Detroit, which his parents forbid him to do. He begins to talk breathlessly about the crime, the dangers of getting out of your car, that it simply isn’t worth it. We took it under advisement. I lived in a suburb nowhere near as Northern as Adam’s. The idea of not going into Detroit was laughable. I always considered myself more of a Woodward Ave resident, since Huntington Woods had almost zero commercial. Woodward runs from the Detroit River to Pontiac. I lived at 10 Mile, two “mile roads” North of Detroit. I’d go South of 8 Mile for restaurants, or to drive around aimlessly, a great Detroit pass time. But, primarily to visit Dave, who lived at 7 Mile and Livernois. Adam was admonishing Dave not to go home.

  16. Marion Says:

    Don’t know if anyone realizes but if the “subtext” rules then Bart is the most protected and secure resident in that neighborhood. Remember, love your enemy…(or your perceived enemy). If anyone would be subject to attack it would be the neighbors who fear.

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