Lamenting the fact that "our public discourse ignores the fact that race—particularly in a place like Philadelphia—is also an issue for white people. Though white people never talk about it.", Robert Huber attempts to "bridge the conversational divide so that there are no longer two private dialogues in Philadelphia—white people talking to other whites, and black people to blacks", by interviewing a ton of middle class white people. People who, despite the fact that the premise of the piece is that they "never talk about it" proceed to talk about it at length, telling him scary stories about black people.
He relays the story of John, a lovely old man who relates how wonderful his neighborhood used to be before all the black people moved in, and then it went to hell. Of course he has no problem with blacks, he claims, except for that "nigger boy" that broke into his house.
And then there’s Anna, the "slim, dark haired beauty from Moscow" who wishes all the black people would stop smoking pot on their porches and get a damn job. She sounds nice.
And lets not forget the author himself, who makes a show of holding doors open for black people, or his friend who pats himself on the back for advancing race relations by acknowledging black people’s presence.
Had I been interviewed, I would have told him about finding the window of my car smashed one morning. He would probably have assumed it was smashed by a black person. Of course I have no idea who smashed it because I was three blocks away sleeping at the time. Honestly the experience was probably worst for the poor kid I scared half to death when I loudly yelled “FUCK!” right after discovering it, not realizing she was passing me on the sidewalk just then.
Racism is a problem in Philly and its a problem elsewhere. Cataloging tales of scary black people doesn’t help, and it most certainly does nothing to advance the stated goal of "starting a conversation" about race. It’s a goal that I have a hard time believing was honestly pursued here. For the official take-downs, published by the same magazine (balance!), see here and here. For what seems to be considered the "definitive" take-down, here.
The best one, though, is on Phawker:
There’s a lot of anger going around this city right now because of a magazine story that is almost universally agreed to be completely irresponsible. However, if you’re on the fence, let me beg you not to be taken in by it. Reject it. Don’t listen to old white men who are disengaged from reality, steeped in fear and delusional prejudice…
You can take Philadelphia Magazine’s lead, and selfishly retreat from our problems, or you can muster the actual courage necessary to dive headlong into them. Forty years from now I don’t want to be sitting in a suburban cul de sac blaming somebody else for what happened to my city, I want to be living in a better city that is better for the hard work I put into making it that way, and so can you.
That cannot possibly be said enough.
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