spike lee on gentrification fort greene park slopez bed stuy and other US neighborhoods

Get out of the neighborhood” is what New York City Police Department officers told a group of Black teens over a patrol car loudspeaker in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, and called this human rights violation a crime fighting tactic.

A strange part about American racism is that most people with racial hangups are too ashamed to identify their behavior as racist for the public’s consumption.

For example, most bigots or racists won’t say “I don’t feel comfortable with the presence of black people. What’s more, I dislike them so much that I baked and sold Drunken [Negro] Face cakes in honor of America’s first Black President, and called the exercise “fun” and “art” [before eventually apologizing].

Or, “I once—okay, twice—wrote a customer’s name on a steakhouse receipt that went something like “Mc Stinkyn[***]er” while the restaurant’s general manager insists that he doesn’t have a racist establishment.”

Many people want to be racists—or allow prejudice to be their moral compasses—but don’t want to be called racists, and their attempt to explain or defend their disgusting behavior brings idiocy to a point where you want to laugh—except you realize racism has left many people emotionally scarred or even dead.

With an understanding of how some racist mental models work, you can imagine my reaction when I read area police commander Capt. Frank DiGiacomo’s explanation for why his officers are running Black kids out of a very public area of Park Slope: there was a fight at the Barclays Center days ago that involved teenagers, and officers have been proactively breaking up assemblages of youth ever since.

This is a good time to show you a map of the distance between the Barclay’s Center and the approximate location of this “Get out of the neighborhood” encounter. Keep in mind that most New Yorkers walk or take public transportation everywhere:


distance between park slope and barclay's center
SOURCE: Google Maps

Do you believe that kids itching for a fight plan to walk over a mile to find one, or take a bus to save their brawling energy?

Did these vigilant cops consider that several high schools are within walking distance of the encounter, and the kids may have been students?

Sure, 90 percent of Park Slope’s residents is White these days, but is it possible that at at least one of the kids lived in the neighborhood, and the others were visiting?

Would it be against the law for none of these kids to live in Park Slope, but want to visit a friend, or have a sufficient amount of curiosity about how others live, to visit anyway?

Did these officers see no congregating White kids all day?

This is the cue to paraphrase Capt. DiGiacomo, “If the teens don’t look like Park Slope locals and are not playing sports or doing anything else productive (which assumes walking down a public street en route to somewhere is not productive), they will be run out of the neighborhood.

former criminal defense lawyer Sara Bennett witnessed NYPD officers harass a group of black kids on this Park Slope block
On 9th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues in Park Slope Brooklyn, the approximate location of the incident; facing west

I wrote on Tumblr a while ago that Spike Lee was on point about how gentrification looks a lot like a Christopher Columbus takeover project. And now the NYPD’s actions in what was traditionally a Black and Latino Park Slope Brooklyn neighborhood makes me say “We have a witness!”

But I’m not ready to say “Amen” yet…

I would like to see a version of gentrification that doesn’t run anyone out of neighborhoods with police cars or supply and demand.

That should be something everyone can say “Amen” to…

song currently stuck in my head: “mean to me” – sarah vaughan

UPDATE: I write more thoughts than I actually post, and this piece was destined for the vault, for some unexplainable reason. I want to thank Facebook friend Benjamin H. for encouraging me to share…

song currently stuck in my head: “old man” – neil young

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