Sunday, August 27, 2006

thoughts from Up The Pike

I went down to the Silver Theatre with a friend today to see Little Miss Sunshine, which I recommend hesitantly (in the event you've already had your fill of indie films about dysfunctional families). On the way from the parking garage to the theatre I passed City Place, where I ran into five black kids, not much younger than myself. They circled us, causing me to think the worst. Then, one of them asked: "Do you have any quarters?" I said no, and they left us alone and free to see our film at the art house theatre in the gentrifying downtown. And I couldn't help but feel a little guilty for being scared.

Gentrification is messy. City Place gets a eight-story office tower on the roof, meaning that Kid's For Less will have to go; but the suburbanites still won't walk south of Wayne Avenue. I mean, I really wish my parents had never decided to move away from Downtown. Maybe then I'd be the one laughing at all these scared people who finally have a little bit of the city to call their own.


Anonymous said...

Good old City Place. I used to shop at Nordstrom Rack regularly and still take my shoes to the wonderful cobbler there. Marshall's is ok, Nine West is ok, that new little shop that carries the Marimekko items is nice if a bit crowded. Oh, and the soul food carryout down on the bottom level is GREAT.

I look at some of the other places, though, with mixed feelings. How many dollar stores and discount hoochie mamma clothing stores does one mall need? On the other hand, independent business people own those shops and are working hard to be successful and support their families. I want the mall to have more stores that cater to my tastes, but I appreciate the fact that those business people have stuck it out in DTSS.

I used to go to the movies in the top level regularly, mainly because it was close. Usually, I'd go to the first show on Saturday mornings. Fairly regularly, there would be a group of people at the movies who seemed to be from a group or assisted living home for folks with special needs. When they were primarily folks with Downs Syndrome, I'd chat with them in line and at the snack bar. It was nice. Other Saturdays, there would be folks who really couldn't have been getting much from the movie. Two or three people with significant special needs would be parked in one of the back rows of the theater and they'd yell, yelp, screech, and otherwise verbalize during the whole movie regardless what was going on on the screen. Talk about conflicting feelings. I knew they couldn't help it, but it annoyed me just the same.

Dan Reed said...

You'd think I would know better . . . but we're all prey to the same stereotyping. Would five white kids approaching me on the street make me any less scared? I don't know. Then again, I don't know if they're going to be asking me for change, either.

Sligo said...

No one should be in a group "circling" strangers on the street. That action in itself is threatening, as it hides from everyone else what is happening and cuts off your avenue for escape. Maybe they wouldn't have actually hurt you, but by doing that, they were counting on you getting scared and squeezing some money out of you.

Why should you feel guilty for that making you nervous? Its good you didn't give them anything... that might encourage them to harass other pedestrians.

Dan Reed said...

I'm not happy about stereotypes - even I am a victim of them - but, then again, I don't make a habit of intimidating people in the street. Using the demeaning images of black males in our society to justify "thuggish" behavior doesn't do anything for the problem.

Maryam, you've been in my position before, I'm sure. Haven't you gotten scared? Do we need these small incidents happening when our community has already developed a reputation for things far worse?

Anonymous said...

The problem with Maryam's point is that she is assuming that you should base your behavior and reaction on the belief that a group of 5 white guys is just as likely to attack/rob/threaten you as a group of 5 black guys.

This is complete nonsense.

In Montgomery County, black males made up 83% of all felonies.

My insurance company changes me more for car insurance because I am a guy and, statistically, I am more likely to be in a crash than a woman driver. Likewise, reacting differenting to a group of black men vs a group of white men is completely appropriate.

On a personal note, I was robbed outside the Mall at Prince George's by a group of 4 black men. While I do not make blanket assumptions, I refuse to surrender my personal security to PC thinking.

And just because I want to throw it out there, I work at the National Urban League in DC.

Dan Reed said...

Maryam - at what point did anyone say that black kids like to intimidate people?

The kids happened to be black. They happened to intimidate me. I think that's as far down as the rabbit hole goes . . . there are a lot of good kids in Downtown Silver Spring, don't get me wrong.

Like I said, the city is in transition. On top of that, we have a population more diverse than any in Maryland - maybe more than Baltimore. This super-political correctness and race-baiting has no place in Silver Spring. It's almost insulting to our community's diversity that we have to tiptoe around issues of race like this.