We black folks are forever complaining about the high level of crime in our communities. The fact that our neighbourhoods are run down, our communities lack government support, and our schools lack resources and funding, should be a call to evaluate our attitude towards our neighbourhoods.
The fact that our communities are dramatically deteriorating is partially our fault. I agree that racism, questionable public policy, and lack of government interest are at the heart of some of these issues; however, we are also responsible for the quality of our communities. Yes, we hold some responsibility for our neighbourhoods being crime infested, sloppy, underfunded, and sometimes downright gross.
Specifically to people living in America, perhaps it's the culture, but black folks lack a sense of community. We don't advocate for our neighbourhoods and our schools, and this attitude creates a vicious cycle. We complain, instead of seeking solutions; nothing changes; hence, we complain some more. We think every issue that needs to be addressed is someone else's responsibility, instead of taking initiative. For example, my friend stated that although he likes the neighbourhood he lives in, there has been an increase in robberies on a particular street. One night he opted to walk down this avenue, but felt uncomfortable because it was dark and isolated. This is a legitimate concern, but I was still curious as to the condition of that residential street. The following conversation ensued.
Me: "Aren't there streetlights on the block?"
Friend: "Yes, but the light is out."
Me: "Did you report that it was out?"
Me: "Why not?"
Friend: "I don't live on that block
It is this mentality that screams to criminals, These people don't care about their neighbourhood. The entire neighbourhood is our responsibility, not just the block we live on. If we frequent an area, that area becomes our responsibility. Although I live on the other side of town, I reported that the light was out. When my friend walked down the block two nights later, the street was lit. Neighbourhoods don't deteriorate overnight; they deteriorate over time because of continued indifference. These little things we take for granted, but these are the things that, if left unchecked, will grow into bigger issues.
When we leave dog poop on the sidewalk like mines in a minefield, this sends a message to criminals. If residents aren't concerned about aesthetics, they won't be concerned when prostitutes solicit on the corner. When garbage piles up on the corner, when dumpsters are left in the middle of the block for days, when abandoned property is left with points of entry that are not boarded up, our neighbourhoods will deteriorate because this sends a message to criminals. Crime spreads. Criminals navigate and seek out communities where there is an opportunity to commit crime.
Too often I hear, Oh please, these are just little things. However, if a crack head (not PC but brings the point across) found an accessible, abandoned building in your neighbourhood, you would have a crack head living on your street. Time passes, and no reports are made. No one is concerned. So, this addict invites other addicts over. I know there's someone saying, Crack heads are people too. I absolutely agree, and should be respected simply for the fact that they are human beings. We don't know the story behind this person's present situation. People become addicted to drugs through many different avenues. However, the reality is that this person doesn't work, but requires money to support a habit. Pretty soon there is an increase in burglaries and robberies. Eventually, the block gets labeled as a bad block, and people start avoiding this area. This results in less pedestrian activity, less vehicular traffic, and a movement of people out of the neighbourhood. This leaves the area under the control of criminals, and other individuals who are even more indifferent to their surroundings. Where there is a crack head there is a drug dealer; where there is a drug dealer there is illegal firearm, where there is illegal firearm, there is a host of individuals engaged in all sorts of deviant behaviour. This doesn't happen overnight; it occurs over time.
We need to expand the scope of our definition of neighbourhood, and take an active interest in preserving and keeping our communities safe. White neighbourhoods aren't sparkly clean and springtime fresh because they rely on the city to do everything. There are no crack heads, of any ethnic group, sitting on the corner of 86th Street and Park Avenue. The residents will not allow this. Their neighbourhoods stand out because they take a genuine interest in where they live. Crimes occur because the opportunity exists. If we eliminate as many opportunities from our environment, we will be able to keep our neighbourhoods safer. If we take an interest in our communities, all of our demands might not be realized, but some of our demands will be realized.
Photo Credit To Atari Community
Editor-in-Chief's Note: Ebonie-March Jones is a freelance contributor to MNI Alive