Monday, July 10, 2006

Hate and Homophobia around the Homestead

We live in a very diverse community. Longview Gardens is an older Raleigh neighborhood dating back to the 1940s and 1950s, when it was originally conceived as an upscale white Christian neighborhood. Ironic this, because the downtown area where the neighborhood is situated is largely considered the "black" side of town. The expansive lots, long views, rolling hills, area lake, and large houses are part of what became one of the first Raleigh neighborhoods to be racially integrated when white-only covenants became illegal in the 1960s.

Today, we are considered a bit of an oasis in a larger, poorer area. Our neighborhood is battling, and winning, a fight to change that perception.

Every day, I am reminded of the social, economic, and racial divisions that coexist in my neighborhood. I drive to work, passing the bus stops with folks waiting to board, enroute to their jobs in service industries. At the local Kroger grocery, I see single moms loading their groceries and their toddlers into a cab. We answer the door and politely decline the occassional request for spare change.

In small ways, I try to tug at the divisions. In our neighborhood, I think alot of the division is created by folks that choose not to frequent the neighborhood, it's facilities, and it's businesses. Jon and I walk around alot and we make a point to say hello to just about everyone, including the folks that are passing through on foot that others might consider suspicious. We use the area greenways and parks. We also make a point to spend money in the neighborhood. When I went to one particular convenience store for the first time, I was asked if I live in the area because "we don't get many white folks in here." Frank's Pizza is a restaurant within walking distance of our house that has some of the best service and definitely the best pizza I've had outside of New York City.

Despite these efforts, I sometimes forget what an insulated world I still live in. For the most part, I am able to choose who I associate with and so I just don't usually encounter people who are hateful.

Last week, a neighbor I'd met while walking to the Longview Pool sent down some fresh string beans by way of another neighbor. To return the favor, Jon and I walked down to her house last night with cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes. We chatted for a while at her front door, when Jon commented on the beautiful deck next door. "Yeah, I guess it's nice," she replied, "but I don't spend time with 'em. They're queer."

I was shocked. Speechless and utterly stunned. Jon recovered his composure more quickly than I did with an excuse about dinner. We left, disheartened. Disheartened that she thought that way, and aghast that she felt comfortable verbalizing it to us. Perhaps we look like liberals and she was just trying to let these gay-sympathizers know that she wasn't. No amount or variety of hatred is acceptable, but I never expected the first act of bigotry I would witness in my neighborhood to be about sexual orientation, when the potential for race, class, and income is so much more obvious. At any rate, someone should tell her that she is surrounded.


Antonio said...

It is quite a shame that racism in any form still exists. I am a Black man from Detroit Michigan who found out all to well about racism once I migrated to the south. One of the most demoralizing things that I was exposed to was when the racism came from an elder in-law towards me and my family; what made it even more repulsive was the fact that she calls herself a Christian. I too am a Christian and I recall reading in the New-Testament that the "Greatest" commandment is to "Love thy neighbor". Well I read and enjoy you guys blog everyday, thanks for being there.

P.S. Franks not only has some of the best Pizza in this area but their salads are good too.

Jon said...

I like the Bluecheese dressing!

Kate said...

Antonio--you're from Motown? My mother's family was in good company, then. Thanks for keeping up with us.