This is not a racist post.
At least, I hope it doesn’t sound that way.
As many of you know, I bought and moved into a “new” (ok, it’s 80 years old) home a few months ago. As I believe I have mentioned, I am the only white person on my block. Let me just say that this does not bother me; I don’t really care who I live next to provided the cops don’t show up on my block on a regular basis (anyone remember Chez?), the music doesn’t wake me up at 3 am (anyone remember Leroy?) and I don’t own rental property on the same block (remember Frank? Pam?).
However, living in (prior to my purchase) an all-black neighborhood has opened my eyes to a few things, mostly the reasons why some black people feel that, even in this “enlightened” (insert sarcasm here) age, discrimination still exists. I can see this because, by virtue of my address, I am not privy to the same services people living in other areas of St. Petersburg have access to.
Let’s start with the mail. I have a mailbox mounted on my house (as opposed to the curbside mailboxes) with a spot for outgoing mail underneath. And soon I start to notice that on days I do not get mail, my outgoing mail doesn’t get picked up. Since I am currently undergoing a massive effort to copy as many Netflix DVD’s as possible, this bothers me. The next time I see my mailman (or mailwoman, depending on the day), I ask. She tells me that she doesn’t stop on my street unless she has mail to deliver, so the mail at my house won’t get picked up unless I have mail coming in. So much for “neither rain nor sleet nor snow” and all that crap.
But perhaps that’s a policy set by the US Postal Service; perhaps it is also in place elsewhere.
So let’s move on to trash. When I first moved in, I didn’t have a big black barrel in my yard. I called the city to get one; they said they would bring one out. A week passes- no garbage can. As my little dog, clearly traumatized by a series of moves, has taken to shitting in the house, finding a way to dispose of trash becomes a priority (June + Florida + dog poop, you do the math). I call the city back. They tell me that an inspector came out and, in my neighborhood, we all share alley trash cans. There are three for two streets.
But perhaps that happens in other areas of St. Petersburg as well.
I know someone on the St. Petersburg Police force who used to patrol an adjacent neighborhood. He had to drop something off one night. Although off duty, He would not come to my neighborhood until he stopped by the police station and got his gun. As he explained it to me- and this is a direct quote- “My area was across the street; I’m not going into my barrio without my gun.” Barrio?
But perhaps the City of St. Petersburg Police refer to Old Northeast and Roser Park (very white and very wealthy) as barrios as well; perhaps the gentleman I know won’t go there without his gun, either.
My realtor initially steered me away from this house, saying “you don’t go down there without a gun”. The selling realtor asked me “are you sure you really want to live in that neighborhood?”. Several actors I know wouldn’t come to my house for a cast party (offered only as I was stage managing and no one else would volunteer their home). Pizza Hut and Domino’s will not deliver to my neighborhood.
When you add to that the sheer number of people who have expressed shock, dismay, or issued me words of caution about this home (after two months, I haven’t had a single incident), I can see why St. Petersburg has had race riot issues in the past. I’m amazed there aren’t more, actually.
The trash can thing alone would do it for me – it’s costing me $16.35 each month for the privilege of sharing a trash can with about 20 other people. I used to work for the County utility; I know the fees. Granted, the City has to pay labor, maintain the trucks, blah blah blah, but it only costs them $37.50 to get rid of a ton of garbage at the County’s waste-to-energy facility. The County also once calculated that the average person throws out five pounds of garbage a day. That means, over a 30 day period, I throw out 150 pounds of trash. That costs the City about $2.81 in disposal. That means the other 82% goes for… what, exactly? Administrative costs? Plus, I’ve lived in other cities where we all had our own city-supplied cans and it cost much less. I’ll pay it, I have no choice (can you say “regulated monopoly”, anyone?), but give me my own damn can.
The point is, it seems like I get services of diminished quality living here. Now, people will argue that my neighborhood brings in less tax money (lower property values, for now) for the City, so why focus on providing quality services? I would answer that tax value has NOTHING to do with my trash bill, NOTHING to do with the USPS, and NOTHING to do with pizzas, attitudes, or other “little things”. I would also argue that many homes on my street are rentals, so they’re getting MORE tax money because of fewer homestead exemptions.
If I was REALLY in a mood, I would also answer that a relatively recently desegregated Pinellas County has only recently -VERY recently- made a point to improve the schools on the south side (the “black” side; forgive the wording, it’s not mine… thanks to my ex inlaws for that phrasing), so how the HELL are black people raised in Pinellas County supposed to have a fair shake at a decent job that would move them out of the low income areas? Don’t throw the affirmative action bullshit in my face; at a minimum, people “of color” schooled in Pinellas County are competing with OTHER people of color schooled in areas of the nation (DC, New York, etc., etc.) where they actually had (I’m assuming) decent teachers, history textbooks that did NOT use the phrase “War of Northern Aggression”, and literature courses that didn’t use Gone With The Wind as the cornerstone of their curriculum.
I can deal with people’s ignorance (well, I can ignore it or make them feel stupid, at the very least), but the services thing is there every time I take out the trash, return a Netflix DVD, or want a pizza. At least I just see it because of where I live; how much worse would it be if I never knew whether it was an issue of where I lived or my skin color, and knowing even then that it didn’t matter which it was because the two were really the same?
I feel better, for now. Thanks for listening.