It’s been a long time since I lived in the hood. Even when I lived in the hood, it wasn’t the kind of hood that I had to look around and feel some kind of way about. I lived in an area of Brooklyn with mostly Caribbean home owners. They took pride in what was theirs; swept the sidewalks in front of their stoops, picked up litter and trash, made sure the block was clean after the garbage truck passed. The area I went to school in on the other hand was a different story. The common theme–the mentality–was “no one cares.” It’s the hood. It’s supposed to be dirty. People occasionally complained about how infrequently the garbage was collected or how the so-called street sweepers only swished the dirt around, but they never seemed to care enough to not drop trash on the ground in the first place.
I wish this was going to be one of those simple pieces where I point my finger at an issue, give a brief history lesson, and provide a clean solution. Unfortunately, this is one of those times where the issue goes so much deeper than simply “clean it up.” There’s something about the hood mentality that makes everything about being from the hood the kind of struggle that even hood people don’t really understand. It’s goes Aristotle and Kant deep. It’s knowing that the hood is set up to keep people down, thinking you’re beating the system because you’re “living well” in the hood, then seeing how people live outside the hood and having one of those #awkwardmomentwhen. It’s trying to describe how deep it is only to find that Words Don’t Do It Justice. Let’s see if I can put this into perspective.
I stopped for gas at a Chevron the other night. I knew I was in the hood, and as such I was appropriately cautious and carefully observed my surroundings. I was with friends, one of whom is an equally–if not more so–hood smart young man. He pumped the gas, I surveilled. There was a woman begging at the door to the convenience store and one or two other gas station patrons. What was I most bothered by? That all but 2 pumps were fully functional. It’s the hood. There are supposed to be poor people, drug addicts, and cantankerous arguing patrons. What I don’t accept is that a multi million dollar corporation would allow it’s gas pumps to remain in disrepair or be left empty for more than a few hours. East Point, GA is no less worthy of services than Buckhead. Corporations shouldn’t be allowed to treat their patrons differently just because of a zip code. I’ll go deeper.
When I mentioned that I was irritated, my friend assumed that it was because of the beggar by the door asking him for change repeatedly. I don’t think I explained then, but I’m not generally bothered by people begging. A closed mouth won’t get fed, whether what the body needs is a meal, a roof, or their favorite chemical alterant. I’d rather her be begging than out stealing or hurting herself for what she needs. I don’t know what circumstances lead her–or any other person–to that position, but it probably wasn’t part of their life’s plan. I have a hard time believing that anyone grows up striving to be homeless, a drug addict, or mentally ill. It happens, but I highly doubt that it was planned. I also wasn’t bothered by being in the hood. I come from a hood that probably isn’t very different from the hoods of Georgia, or any other hood for that matter. When I did explain that I was upset about the state of the gas station, his first reaction was to remind me that the hood mentality dictates that the people who live there don’t consider themselves to be worthy of “nice things.”
So here’s the thing: it’s hard to believe that you’re deserving of things like a fully functioning gas station when everything in the social construct tells you that because you didn’t get the good job you were told you’d get after college or after serving in whichever branch of the Armed Forces… because the job you did get barely pays enough to keep a roof over your head which also means your income is low and thus a you’re in a low tax bracket. Less tax contribution–by means of property taxes, not income–means less service (i.e. road maintenance, garbage collection, public school funding, etc.) The lesser services means the hood children don’t have access to the same standard of education that other children in more affluent neighborhoods do; larger class sizes taught by underpaid, stressed out, inattentive teachers… and even if the children get into college, the cycle often continues. But wait! There’s more. What happens to the kids who don’t make it into college? What happens to a child who has one or two working parents who are too busy trying to make ends meet and keep the utilities on? What happens to the kids who basically have to raise themselves because the adults in their lives are absent? What happens to the kid who only gets attention when they “act out?” What happens to the kid who gets convinced that his life isn’t valuable? What happens?
No one cares.
Do More. Require Better.