Living in America–My Tucson ‘hood’

Posted: May 26, 2014 in Livin' in the USA, Politics
Tags: , , , , , ,

Front cover of "The Heretic's Handbook of Quotationsby Chaz Bufe, publisher See Sharp Press

People are scared shitless of my neighborhood.

In one way I understand it, in another I don’t. It’s about 70% Mexican, 15% black, 15% white. The median income is probably about half the national average. I’m the only one on the block–worked my way through it in the ’70s–with a college education. There’s graffiti on most exposed walls. Cars up on blocks in front yards. Occasional gun shots at night, mostly semi-auto.

And my pal Dewayne thinks it’s “paradise.”  So do I.

Why? The remarkable lack of racial animosity.  Dewayne grew up in Cleveland, I grew up in a bad part of Phoenix, and I lived for over a decade in one of the worst parts of  San Francisco. Racial and ethnic animosity were a given. And constant fear and hyper-vigilance–always looking over your shoulder, always ready for violence.

Here, no.  I feel safe. Dewayne feels safe. The neighbors know each other, and we watch out for each other.

There isn’t much gang violence here, and when they do go after each other the gang bangers usually avoid “civilians.” (I came home three or four years ago to find cops looking for bullets in my mesquite tree and one of the walls–there was a shootout with–according to the cop I talked to–about 70 shots fired at one of the drug duplexes on the corner; all of the shots were directed at each other, not at us “civilians.”)

The lesson here is that people are people. No racial group is better or worse than any other. We have nothing to fear from each other. As Rodney King famously asked a quarter of a century ago, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Here, in Tucson’s  Keeling Neighborhood (“It’s not as bad as it looks”),  we do. Welcome to paradise.

* * *

As a side note, if you’ve never heard it–hearkening back to the title of this post–do yourself a favor and give a listen to James Brown’s masterpiece CD “Gravity” (with the fantastic cut, “Living in America”). Other than “Live at the Apollo,” it’s probably his best recording. (“Hell” is right in there, too.)






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