Vanessa has got her panties in a wad, and apparently Westgard does too judging from his comment over Toni Duncan's rant about fireworks and the cognitive dissonance that ensues when the trappings of wealth permeate an impoverished neighborhhood.
The title of Vanessa's post pretty much sums up her perspective, and Westgard jumps right in with a reference to white privilege in an uncalled for snarky comment:
Toni conveniently forgets that she chose to buy a home in a poor neighborhood - and presumably saved herself a pretty penny over a comparable home in Hinsdale or Wilmette, or wherever it is that poor people don't interfere with Toni's standards for white privilege.
I was all set to sit this one out until I read that because he might as well have been talking about me. Excuse me all to hell Mr. High-and-Mighty-Progressive-Lawyer for wanting to live where I can afford the payments and have amenities that are important to me. I didn't move up here looking for a dialed back version of the Gold Coast. Yes, there is poverty in Rogers Park and I knew that going in. However, it doesn't follow that crime has to live here, or that gangbangers have to do business here, that littering has to be tolerated, or bad behavior should be ignored, or that building owners get a pass on maintaining their properties because they rent to folks at the lower end of the economic scale. Sorry, but that's not about white privilege, it's about having a safe and sane neighborhood. Presumably that's why you called 911 while witnessing this close encounter on the parkway in front of your office. Or were you actually imposing your aesthetic standards?
I used to live in Cleveland on the line between the East Side's poverty and Shaker Heights' wealth. I was one of the few white folks living in the neighborhood, but we all shared one thing in common: crime and criminals were not welcome. That doesn't mean we were crime free, but we worked hard at keeping it out. I paid full rent in a complex that included tenants paying with Section 8 vouchers. Loud and noisy it could be, but they weren't interested in sharing the complex with troublemakers. Twice I had people try to break into my apartment, while I was in it! They took off when they realized I was not only in it, but ready to put up a fight. The only dead body that ever appeared on our property was put in our dumpster by someone from outside the 'hood and he was arrested and convicted.
What Toni is talking about is choices and priorities, and their impact on the families and the neighborhood. Vanessa comments on the fact that the people Toni is describing have different values. Well yeah, apparently they do according to Toni:
After a meeting last week, I heard one security guard yelling profanities at two men leaning on their parked car across the street. And yes, a black man was using the ‘N’ word. The two men he claimed were taunting him were from a different ethnic background. So a crowd gathered on the corner to cheer on the security guard cursing the ‘foreigners’, chants similar to those in Lord of the Flies.
Yup, that's a great way to win friends, influence people, and impress the neighbors with your wit, wisdom and general good nature.
Westgard seems to think it's all about Toni:
Is there anything more callous than kicking the poor while they're down by complaining that they don't measure up to your aesthetic standards? Toni looks at children living in poverty and thinks about ... her own comfort!
Well I guess he stopped reading somewhere along the way because Toni tells us her real agenda:
But do they want this to be a decent, safe, clean low income neighborhood?
Oops, there's that pesky white privilege raising its ugly head again and imposing its aesthetic standards.
Vanessa thinks Toni is off the mark in her criticism of the expensive sneakers she is seeing;
Toni doesn't criticize Nike for the huge mark ups they place on the shoes and all the advertising that persuades young children that they need these shoes to be happy and socially acceptable, that's OK because its a free market...
Sooooooo, does this mean the children control the family checkbook? The parents don't possess veto power? Or are the parents as gullible as their children?
If parents are choosing designer fashion and cool gadgets, complete with expensive prices, over rent and utilities, I don't want to hear any whining about evictions and utility shutoffs. That choice reflects their priorities and society is not required to fund the difference. If their children are learning entrepreneurial skills via drug deals and the leading role models are gangbangers and hustlers, then there is work that needs to be done. Starting with the parents.
I have talked with Toni only once and I believe she is a woman who cares deeply about her neighborhood. She is not hate-filled, as Vanessa would infer. In fact Vanessa suggests Toni limit her writing:
I wish Toni would write about the things she knows instead of these ignorant observations about a culture different than hers.
I attended a diversity video that spoke about how folks move out of poverty. There are 3 steps; 1) you have to want to, 2) you have to get educated, and 3) you have to build relationships. These steps were also used to illustrate how folks can become more attuned to cultural diversity. I think Toni does write about what she knows, and that she wants to understand. From her previous posts I think she is getting quite an education, and I don't believe she is living in isolation, she is out building relationships.
Vanessa, this next is specifically for you:
1) fireworks can maim and kill. They are not for amateurs or children. They are legal in Texas and I marvel that no one in my uncle's subdivision sets their house afire with the glowing fireworks debris landing on the roofs amid the ever present dry pine needles. One night there will be a misfire, and then watch out! You should talk to folks whose family members were injured by fireworks. I saw a professional setup blow up on the ground, ending the show and seriously injuring one of the men who was lighting the explosives (which is what they are). Even the pros aren't immune from mistakes or bad charges.
2) start taking your own advice, stick to what you know when you write. And if you must write about my generation, spend some time educating yourself about us, and building relationships with us, before making the same sort of half-assed assumptions you believe Toni is making.