It seems that I have come under criticism for not getting more involved in my neighborhood’s crime watch activities. It also seems that the Creative Loafing posters feel like I’m whining and playing the victim.
To set the record straight….
-I report on several community groups that all meet at night. Most times I have to choose between making money and going to my neighborhood’s crime watch meeting. I’m a freelancer, guys, I get paid per article. Yes, I know I have chosen this life, but I don’t have sick time, I don’t have anyone else in my home helping with finances, so it’s just me and my laptop against the world (oh, and my Dalmatian, but she really has limited earning potential). I don’t get a salary, so I work when and where I can.
-You want to fault me for not getting involved, go ahead. I made my bed and all, writing what I did, but I would argue that, agree with me or not, my article and these posts have drawn focus to a largely ignored area of Pinellas County.
-I DO call the police, so much so that I feel like the cranky old lady with 97 cats and bright green fuzzy slippers that calls if someone looks suspicious. I have taken every blessed one of their suggestions, save for putting lights up in the alley (I just don’t have the resources).
-Complaining without action or attempt? I’m not a joiner, I’m not a leader, I’m not an activist. I am, however, a writer. So that’s what I do. Those of you who read my article and took it as complaining or whining, read it again, and consider this:
Those of you who disagreed with me are, response-wise (letters, e-mails, and calls to me, the paper, as well as these blogs) in the minority. That shocked me and disturbs me.
I didn’t write I Had a Dream expecting empathy. I expected and hoped that people would not relate but would understand that things aren’t as rosy on the south side as city officials would have you think. I realize that perhaps only a handful of people reading this anymore may have actually met me, so I guess I need to explain that three years ago I felt completely differently. I was more severely opinionated to the left about race than anyone who has responded to these writings.
This has not been an easy journey (relax, my anti-Cathy hate club, I am not whining) in that respect. Or any respect, really. That any living situation- regardless of your level of involvement in neighborhood watch groups or cleanups or whatever- can facilitate as dramatic a change as it has for me- is unacceptable. I’m not real pleased with myself, don’t misunderstand, but I have seen things I cannot unsee. I can’t pretend they didn’t happen. I’m not like city of St. Pete’s leadership (to be fair, just some of it, not all): I can’t act like things are fine here. They are not. Living here has changed me. Yes, I have allowed it, but I would argue that any one of you who spent two years on my street would emerge from the experience changed as well.
Here’s what I’ve seen:
Some people don’t want to be fixed.
Some people aren’t capable of changing their lives.
Opportunity means nothing when the above two statements are true.
And here’s what I want to know:
Those of you who remain adamant that I am not a racist- why is that so important to you? Is it because you feel like I do and don’t want to admit that you might be a little bit racist, too? Or is it because you want to believe that all people are, as Anne Frank said, basically good at heart? I assure, they are not, and I am no different. I am not a bad person, but I have flaws. Many. (My ex husband can send you a notarized list, in either alphabetical or temporal order of discovery.)
One final thought, and then let’s move on, please…
I am not a victim.
But you know what? If I’m not, then neither are my neighbors. We are all responsible for ourselves. At some point we must stop blaming our parents, our schools, our genetics, what the fuck ever, and realize we’re responsible for our future and our situations. Either we’re all victims or none of us are, and either way the result doesn’t change.