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Overheard in my “hood”

October 14, 2008

I just got back from the post office. While I was waiting in line there, I overheard a conversation that just completely floored me. I still can’t believe it. Figured I’d share while I’m processing it.

Some background info first: I live in Sylvan Hills, a mostly lower middle-class neighborhood located in the city of Atlanta, just north of East Point. I am one of a handful of white people on my street. So when I go to my local post office, I’m typically the only white person there.

So today I claimed my spot in the unusually long line, and as the line filled out behind me a lady walked in, black, probably in her 40s… dressed nice and professionally. Looked like she probably had a bit of money, or at least a Macy’s account. She seemed to recognize another lady in line and LOUDLY announced to her, “Hey, I moved out of the hood! I live in Grant Park now.” The lady laughed and made a joke about how “Grant Park’s the hood too.” Then nicely-dressed lady proceeded to (still loudly) explain how no, it’s not, because a lot of white people live there. And white people take care of their houses and keep things nice. Also, there are no pit bulls in her neighborhood. So, clearly, she is no longer in the “hood” (whatev).

Maybe I’m too sensitive. But I really could not believe my ears. I commented, sort of quietly, to whomever might be listening, that I’m white and also have a pit bull. The man in front of me laughed, and we started talking about the lady. “You know, she looks like she’d be more intelligent than that,” he said. I replied that I wondered if she realized that what she’s saying might be taken as offensive, because, well, I was a little offended (on both counts — one, the seemingly obvious lack of consideration for anyone else in line, and two, the prejudice against pit bulls. If you show them love and raise them correctly, they are wonderful animals. But that’s another post for another time). The man went on to say that he lives in a neighborhood with no white people, but with many families who have lived there since the 80s, some since the 60s. “There are no white people or pit bulls in my neighborhood,” he said, “so I’m not sure what that makes me!” I joked, “Well there are no white people, but since there are no pit bulls either, maybe it balances out somehow?” He laughed.

From there we started making small talk, you know, like you do while waiting in line somewhere. The lady kept talking, but I didn’t hear anything else she said other than “I used to live in New York…”

Help me out here… am I wrong to have been so surprised by what I was hearing? Is this racism, or was she simply making observations about her old neighborhood compared to her new one? And does the New York thing play into it at all? I’m just trying to understand firstly why she clearly had no idea that what she was saying might be offensive to some people (or maybe she just didn’t care?), and secondly if I overreacted.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2008 2:34 pm

    Well, you could live in my neighborhood (Kirkwood) where some folks have no problem telling “whites” to get out of “their” neighborhood.

    Seriously, Atlanta is the most racist (backwards or forwards) place I’ve ever lived.

  2. October 14, 2008 2:59 pm

    That’s really a shame. I’ve never faced that in my neighborhood (well, not outright to my face anyway). It’s a touchy subject, and we could talk about it for hours… I guess more than anything I was just shocked to hear it being expressed so openly. And again, maybe I’m just overly sensitive… but the gentleman standing in front of me made me think I wasn’t the only person taken aback.

    It was also interesting to note people’s reactions. It seemed split three ways – group 1 indulged her and didn’t seem to think anything was wrong with it; group 2 (like me) was shocked and started talking about it, albeit quietly; group 3 didn’t really seem to notice, or at least didn’t react to it.

  3. October 14, 2008 4:06 pm

    The woman sounds very ignorant… Your surprise doesn’t come as a shock to me. Her behavior isn’t unusual. In this case, you were privy to a conversation that usually goes on behind closed doors of most black homes…

  4. October 15, 2008 11:15 am

    The “hood” is just a collection of 100s of people’s perceptions of what the “hood” is or isn’t. I’m not sure you can ever leave the “hood”, but perhaps just surf out of one set of perception waves into another. It’s a good thing to have a balance of diversity of opinion.

    Also, as someone who used to live in New York, the lines of demarcation are both sharper there, while the area as a whole is more diversified ethnically. New Yorkers also tend to be pretty outspoken (and sometimes loud);^)

  5. October 16, 2008 11:05 am

    I guess there are rude, inconsiderate people in every line. I’m still amazed when someone comes to my house (I live in Midway Woods, next to Winonna Park) and whispers “There are black people living next door.”

    Sadly, my hometown is very segregated — but both whites and blacks are responsible.

  6. Tiff permalink
    October 21, 2008 8:02 am

    Sounds to me like she left both her manners at home. Seriously though, some people, white, black, or whatever, get a little bit of money, and COMPLETELY forget all their social graces.

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