When I was coming up in Baltimore you generally didn't go to another neighborhood unless you were A.) Escorted by an adult B.) Rolling at least six or seven deep. Sometimes the latter was actually safer than the former. Anyway you had a healthy respect and fear of other people's turf--and you had a special respect and fear of white people's turf. For all the the white yuppie fear of the ghetto, you never hear about the black fear of white ethnic enclaves. In Baltimore, white people were generally only seen over at Mondawmin to renew their license. Which was cool, because you weren't gonna see me in Camden, like, ever. There was a beautiful symmetry in this--they had their racists, we had our thugs.

It's worth pointing out that even the racism of the Polish, the Italians and the Irish isn't much different than the territorial nature of the Cherry Hill and Murphy Homes cats that also scared the crap out of us. Race aside, they all had a sense that you were walking on "their turf." I think that's a little different than the racism of the Deep South. Anyway, yuppies are white and thus generally have no fear of becoming Yusef Hawkins, so they're generally only afraid of black thugs. Worse still, writers and media tend to live in places where white thugs have generally fled or been pushed out of--Manhattan and Washington D.C. Neither area really has a white working class.

I've been wondering, for some time, why when we talk about poor people we virtually never talk about white people. I'm not saying this is the only reason, but I think a large part of it has to do with the fact that the writers, the media, the think tanks tend to be in places where they are surrounded by poor people and virtually all of them are black. We always knew there were poor whites, homeless whites, drug addicted whites because they were all over the city--even a majority black city like Baltimore. Our neighborhoods may have been more violent, but of course we were also carrying a larger share of the unemployed, the socially dysfunctional, and the systemically impoverished.

But there's a difference between a disproportionate number of black people being poor, and most black people being poor, or even most poor people being black. I would love to see some poverty think-tanks open up in cities like Baltimore or in states like Iowa and Wisconsin. I know black folks have problems. But we aren't the entire problem.

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