Casual Brooklyn Racism: 2017 Edition
A tragicomedy, without much tragedy or comedy, in two real-life acts.
The scene: Mid-April in brownstone Brooklyn. The sun is glowing through the newly flowering trees, and everyone in the neighborhood is enjoying the new warmth. At the corner bodega, the usual gang of YAHOOS is kibitzing, as they do. Down the sidewalk come a WHITE MAN and a WHITE WOMAN—Long Islanders, by the look of ’em, certainly not locals, in their late 30s—followed by a SELF-RIGHTEOUS LOCAL GENTRIFIER.
All three pass the YAHOOS, then cross the street toward the PROJECTS; somehow, the GENTRIFIER has wound up in front of the LONG ISLANDERS.
WOMAN (to MAN, loudly and fearfully): I-I don’t think I like this neighborhood.
The GENTRIFIER (overhearing and spinning around in fury): This is MY neighborhood! And it’s pretty damn nice!
WOMAN: But those people were arguing and blah blah blah [the GENTRIFIER has tuned her out already]
It’s a bright, crisp Sunday morning in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Few people are out and about on a lonely stretch of Third Avenue, where the businesses all seem to be self-storage facilities, but as a DASHING JOGGER runs along the crumbling sidewalk, he passes a GENERIC BLACK MAN and approaches a WHITE WOMAN, short, round, and in her early 50s, locking the door of the car she’s just parked.
WOMAN (to JOGGER, suddenly): Oh, thank God you came along! [He smiles.] I thought he was going to mug me!
JOGGER (in the split second before he’s past the woman): Oooooooo…kay…?
A moment later, the JOGGER reaches a stoplight, and while he waits for the walk signal, the WOMAN inches closer and closer, and the JOGGER silently wonders what he should say to her—should he earnestly call out her casual racism? should he gently admonish her, letting her know that although this was once a rough area it has now become quite safe, particularly on a bright, crisp Sunday morning, when people are walking to Whole Foods with their kids?—but luckily the light changes before she’s in earshot, and the JOGGER runs on.
[Discussion: Uh… So, this was all weird, if not entirely surprising. I mean, I know people like that are out there, but it had been a long time since I’d heard such sentiments voiced aloud, within my earshot or directed at me. I guess, what, I look normal, harmless, white, and so no one expects a reaction, or they expect me to be thinking as they are. But shit, these assholes. I wanted to yell at them a lot more, but they weren’t worth it—they weren’t even from the neighborhood. And frankly, they just shouldn’t come back here—they should go back to Long Island, or New Jersey or wherever, and stay there. Jerks.]