Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Neighborhood News

Last weekend there was a shooting in my neighborhood of LA, Echo Park. In total, two men were killed, one wounded, and one suspect apprehended. Police say the shootings were the result of an internal dispute among leaders and members of the EXP gang.

I was especially disturbed when I first learned about the shooting because of its location: in the middle of one of the neighborhood’s main avenues which is always covered up with pedestrians, bicycles, and cars, across the street from an elementary school and a coffee shop. Granted, it was Sunday afternoon, so school was not in session, but I’m sure there were still plenty of kids and other locals out and about. So what gives, gang bangers? Don’t shoot up the place, and keep your violence to yourselves.

However, I also know that these gang members and their gang are long-time fixtures of the neighborhood, just like the elementary school and the little markets that dot the avenue. I know too that they view the neighborhood as theirs, and a white-skinned, light-haired person like me is just one of those newbies who doesn’t understand, doesn’t want to be educated about the neighborhood’s real culture, and never will really belong here.

At least, that’s the message I’ve gotten from reading the postings on several neighborhood blogs and listservs in the past few days. Incidents like this one bring up to the surface our divisions, differences, and beefs, perceived or otherwise. Discussions about this event seem to have instantly generated comments about the increase of white residents in the neighborhood over the past 10 years, the lack of respect given the old residents by the new ones, and the ignorance of the new residents when confronted with the realities and mores of the previous generations.

I’m not entirely sure what the two things have to do with each other, or why these subjects are so quickly related. I didn’t realize any one race or ethnicity had corned the market on hopes for bullet-free walks down the street, or that the wish for such could be understood as disrespect. Isn’t it natural for us all to want a safe place to coffee-sip, porch-sit, shoot the breeze (not each other!) and watch kids play?

The recent conflict over these questions makes me feel bad. I'm pretty sure that we do indeed all want the same basic things in life, but our outside differences are just too much for us to overcome in order to find that common ground.

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