Wednesday, September 20, 2006

My Heart Hurts

So, yesterday afternoon, a body was found at the elementary school on my street. A dead woman was dumped and left for children to find. I can usually be pretty nonchalant about the violence in my neighborhood. But this one is bothering me. I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around it. And of course, like most humans, it’s bothering me mostly because of how it applies to my life.

I like my neighborhood. I know it has some…less than good elements, but for the most part, I like my neighbors and we all kind of look out for each other. And I find it easy to pretend that the violence won’t happen to me. Because I’m smarter than that, or I don’t hang out with scumbags, or any number of excuses I make. But this woman probably thought those same things. And yes, there are a lot of things you can do to be safer; we’ve all taken self-defense courses, read all the “expert advice.” But it all boils down to chance doesn’t it? I’m just as likely to be hurt as anyone else. There’s no reason I’m less of a target when I get home at 11 pm, and have to walk a block to my house. Every time something like this happens, Xtian and I talk about it, and pretend it doesn’t affect us. I mean it’s not like there’s a drive by every day or anything. But I see the worry in his eyes, and I know it’s mirrored in mine.

We want to have kids, and we both feel a desire to stay in Oakland. To raise our kids in a racially/ethnically diverse area. To have our kids attend school where they aren’t the ONLY black or biracial kids on the playground. And right now, our neighborhood is filled with people who all know each other and look out for others. I wouldn’t mind raising kids in an actual COMMUNITY. But, that would be the elementary school they would go to. I can’t imagine how freaked out those poor children are. They were just doing their normal thing, and happen upon a body. I know that you can’t prevent upsetting things from happening to kids, and I remember a couple of kidnappings happening at my elementary school in the suburbs when I was a kid. But this seems preventable.

I realize that we just rent our home, and can always move. It just sucks that I’m finally starting to feel at home in this neighborhood, and it’s starting to scare the hell out of me. All the newscasters keep talking about Oakland’s soaring homicide rate. It’s more than doubled so far this year, and only seems to be gaining momentum. When there is widespread discontent people get shot. And we can’t seem to get anyone to DO anything about this. And I don’t just mean more police officers, though that would be a start. Let’s find out what the underlying causes are and treat those, instead of just filling up prison cells.

It hurts that my community is hurting so badly, and losing so many lives. And it also hurts that this is the only time Oakland makes the news. Just perpetuating the reputation and racial stereotypes. I chose to live in Oakland because I think it has so many wonderful things about it. But when I look around, all I hear about is how terrible Oakland is. I have friends who can’t even entertain the idea that I want to raise my kids here. But, at the same time, is a community improved when all the upstanding people leave it?

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