Friday, June 06, 2014

Positive Loitering

There's a group of folks in my neighborhood who randomly practice something they like to call "positive loitering".  They typically pick a location that they consider a "trouble spot" and stand together in solidarity in an effort to, apparently, prevent "trouble spot no-good doers" from congregating.  The thing is, I can't help but think how racist this practice seems to be.

I mean, I think I get it:  They think that by standing together they can, I dunno, ward off evil spirits or send some kind of message to the gangbangers in my neighborhood that this small band of residents is taking back the night in some kind of way.  It's cute.

The thing is, I've seen this group of folks.  They're all white.  They only messages they are sending as they stand there clinging to their Ventis and Grandes is that it's just fine if a group of white people want to hang out on a corner and talk, but it's not fine - in fact it's downright criminal - for a group of minorities to do the same.  Ok, sure, there may have recently been a scuffle at some point at the exact corner on which they are all congregating, but planting your J. Crew flag for the hour between 7 and 8 p.m. - when it isn't even dark yet - is about saying less "We're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore!" and more "Are you all caught up on 'Orange is the New Black'?"

I think the gangbangers are just laughing at this.  Gangs are all about territory.  They think they own a plot of land to which they have absolutely no legal claim.  As the sad joke goes, You think you own the street?  Pay my property taxes!  Gang members know this group of white people are only going to stay out until the sunsets and then they will disappear back into their condos and the gangs can get back to bizniz.

I guess it's super that the positive loiters feel like activists, and that they believe they are really doing whatever they can within the law.  But the truth is there is no proof that positive loitering works in any capacity.  It won't stop crime; it will only suspend it - or just move it to another location.

I live in the neighborhood so I'm no armchair quarterback.  And I admit that I don't know what the answer is.  What I DO know is that you can't tell a group of people they can't do something but you can, especially when the two main differences between you are 1. Race, and 2. Socio-economic standing.