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Overheard on DeKalb Avenue

May 27, 2009

Just wanted to post a brief conversation my wife and kids overheard while walking on DeKalb avenue on their way to Fort Greene Park.  It was a group of four standing in front of one of the restaurant/bars in their mid-twenties to early thirties and it went like this:

Woman: That’s children playing, why does it bother you?!

Man:   I know…I know…it just get’s on my nerves.

With obvious digust in his voice, the guy was about to go on further, but as he finished his sentence the misses turned around to make eye contact and he cut it short.  At that point my older daughter exclaimed “Mommy, did you hear what that man said?”

So here it is a beautiful Friday evening, the start to a long weekend and this man is bothered by children of all ages enjoying themselves in a playground. They’re not in his space, in his way, they’re across the street oblivious to his existence; simply adhering to the longtime tradition of kids being kids. He knows, he knows…But they get on his nerves.

 I  want to thank this man for showing my daughters, one of whom attends the school where the playground is housed, firsthand some the nasty attitudes people have towards them for no reason. They know they could’ve easily been amongst the mix of kids that bothered this man.

Here’s some pictures of Ronald Edmonds Learning Center’s (MS 113) Math Fair which took place on May 13. This is the same age group of the majority of the kids who were playing in the school’s park Friday evening:

picture-77

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Their just kids folks…

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex permalink
    May 27, 2009 8:58 pm

    Well he is a fucking loser and needs to get the fuck out

  2. May 28, 2009 4:33 pm

    your blood pressure must be sky high if you devote so much time and energy worrying about what strangers are saying when you walk by them. Too bad for that guy that he can’t enjoy children playing–he will have a pathetic life.

    If you think it is symbolic of something deeper, you need to spell it out. Otherwise it makes no sense.

  3. Tom permalink
    May 28, 2009 6:35 pm

    Some people don’t like kids.

    Some people don’t like old folks.

    Some people don’t like eggplant.

    Some people don’t like our current/past leaders.

    Some people don’t like algebra.

    Some people don’t like humidity.

    Some people don’t like change in the neighborhood they grew up in.

    But there it is. We deal.

  4. May 28, 2009 6:43 pm

    that dude is an idiot with some serious issues.

    his lady better run for the hills for real.

  5. bknesto permalink
    May 28, 2009 7:15 pm

    N,

    So the first and last sentence in your comment addresses me instead of the situation at hand. Very typical; however if one were to be real about the dynamics of the neighborhood, while also taking in the scene on DeKalb ave on a friday, it would be very clear what was going on here.

    For you to be that dismissive of my family’s feeling in this situation, I’d guess that you are someone that needs to go on Amazon and buy every book Tim Wise has ever written.

    Take a minute, think about people as people, think about children as children, then think about how a mom with her cubs would feel in this situation. Think about how my daughters felt. How people can be this dismissive of peoples feelings and/or experience is beyond me.

    And for every person people claim are against change in the hood I will find you ten more who are intolerant of changes one has to make when moving to a new neighborhood. I caught that backhanded swipe Tom. For the record there’s NEVER been complaints on this blog about changes in the neighborhood, there has only been reactions to the previously stated intolerance.

  6. Tom permalink
    May 28, 2009 7:55 pm

    bknesto,

    You’re right, it was a swipe. But I sincerely meant it playfully/lightheartedly. No claws.

    I do respect your love of the neighborhood you call home. I’m one of those people who had to move around a lot growing up, so I don’t have a hood to call home, really. I’ve always been a guest, and I’m frankly tired of the reactionary “get the fuck out” attitude that long-time residents have in any neighborhood (per Alex).

    I do wish everyone would lighten up though. We’re all different. We’re all a-holes to someone. For reasons beyond our control we all have to move around and deal with one another, warts and all. I can tell the pride you’ve displayed in your kids when you write of them. They’re smart. They’ll know douche-baggery when they see it.

  7. bknesto permalink
    May 28, 2009 8:27 pm

    See Tom people like you & N are part of the problem. You took a backhanded swipe at me because of something Alex said. You were more bothered by what he said then what it was that made him say it.

    You say get tired of this “get the fuck out” attitude but thats exactly what my wife and kids experienced to their face. For you to trivialize the situation the way you did is exactly the smug attitude I despise in this neighborhood.

    I’m sure your comment wouldve been different if this post was about a family on Fulton street who overheard someone saying “man I wish they would move back to where there from”.

    Also please cite the great many examples of longtime residents with the “get the fuck out” attitude that haven’t been in reaction to some the newer residents intolerance.

  8. Tom permalink
    May 28, 2009 10:48 pm

    That wasn’t my point.

    Regardless of someone else’s words (yours, mine and everyone’s), or whatever street they’re spoken on, REACTIONS give those words power.

    Why did my very obvious front-handed swipe praising you for probably raising your kids to be smart enough to rise above it go unnoticed? It’s too easy to react negatively I guess, but they’re just words. Hell, for all I know Alex could’ve been writing sarcastically.

    And as for trivializing? What that guy said was trivial. Literally. So kids get on his nerves. Big deal. His opinion. He wasn’t even addressing you or your family. He’s just a guy who has the same right as anyone to be a sidewalk blowhard. Maybe he won’t have kids of his own. Life goes on…except for his line.

    No matter what you may think of me, I like you bknesto. I like your blog; your passion for this home of yours. You’ve got a strong moral sense of the world that comes through in your writing. I can relate to that, so I keep coming back. We probably couldn’t be farther apart in upbringing, but I’ve gathered we’re around the same age. There may be some common ground.

    What do you say? The internet is no place for this conversation. Let me buy you a beer sometime. I’m not saying you need a new friend. That’s not what I’m offering. Let’s just call this: getting to know our neighbors.

  9. May 29, 2009 12:24 am

    Actually, I wasn’t bothered by what Alex said, because I don’t know him, he doesn’t know me, and I don’t take his comments personally. What I was trying to communicate to you is that what someone says on the street is not important in the larger scheme of things, especially if it is not directed to you personally. If I got bent out of shape about the systematic sexist shit that women have to take on the street every day, I would be in Bellevue on a weekly basis. That is life for women in NYC. Granted, if someone makes really vile comments and your children hear that, you need to address it. There’s no doubt I show my daughter that there are certain verbal lines people can’t cross with me. But I also show her that most negative people aren’t worth the time or energy.

    I think you reacted to this guy for two reasons: because your daughter heard him and because he represents a threat to the neighborhood. That should not be enough to ruin your evening with your children and send you home in anger to write a blog post. Why not just tell your daughter, “Wow, some people are crazy,” and then continue the positive work you are doing to preserve the neighborhood and protect the people you care about here? What are you teaching her by reacting to this guy’s comment? You are teaching her that random people have the power to negatively affect her whenever and whereever she goes. I feel strongly that it would be better to teach her shake the dust off her sandals, as I think Jesus said, and live to fight the real fight another day.

    You feel that the subtext of this guys comment was, “I wish all these black and latino kids wouldn’t play anywhere within 500 feet of me. In fact, I wish this neighborhood was totally white so I could enjoy the architecture without all the “flavor”. I’m entitled to that, and I’m annoyed that for now I have to settle for General Greene to get my total whiteness experience. But soon enough I’ll have my way.” You are probably right–although there is really no way of truly knowing what this guy’s real issues were. You don’t need to lecture me about the real dynamics of the neighborhood. I’m well aware– I have my analysis and I’m sure I can give you and Tim Rice some things to think about. My point is that you need to show your daughter that people like this are not worth her time or energy, and you need to model that behavior. Otherwise, she is going to be caught up, like you, in watching like a hawk for any perceived slight to her, instead of keeping her eyes of where she wants to get in life and how she is going to get there. Damn right people of color and women have to struggle twice as hard to get to the top. But make no mistake–your daughter can get to the top, judging from the solid family she is a part of. Don’t mess up her mind distracting her by emphasizing the “nasty attitudes” people have towards her. Give her the context she needs to understand that hate and predjudice-when she encounters the real thing–are ugly, but that she can limit their effect on her by brushing off what she can brush off, and fighting against what she needs to fight against. So many women and people of color get caught up in fighting against “attitudes” instead of fighting for real power. That’s a very convenient way for us to be distracted. Don’t assume that your daughter has the same experiences that you did. She lives in a different world. She needs what you can teach her, but you also need to learn from her. It is paramount that we teach our children to pick their battles. Otherwise we just teach them to fight useless battles, and lose the actual war.

    I’ve been in the hood for a long time, and I find these new people with their oblivious, ahistorical attitudes annoying. I try to look beyond them to the neighborhood I know and love, but it is hard. They seem to dominate. The only way to keep this neighborhood at least somewhat stable is to fight for it at the political level. I see that you have done some of that with defending the Lox club. Those are the battles worth fighting. Those are the lessons worth passing on to our children.

  10. bknesto permalink
    May 29, 2009 1:07 am

    See you all keep stressing my reaction but there was none besides a blog post documenting the incident. It wasn’t even a scathing post. There is no battle I’m fighting and no this is not about anyone representing a threat in my neighborhood.

    Also I don’t need either one of you to suggest what I should be teaching my daughters. As a father of 3 I think I have a grasp on parenting. It’s funny that people are acting like I’m taking to the streets because I wrote a blog post about how MY family was offended.

    As you said there is no way of knowing exactly what this person meant but I’m probably right. Especially considering the context of what said when looking at the dynamics of who was playing in the park and who was at the restaurant.

  11. May 29, 2009 2:34 am

    My point is that you do need to take it to the streets, rather than get offended, if you don’t want to become totally irrelevant–in this neighborhood or anywhere else.

  12. bknesto permalink
    June 3, 2009 5:28 pm

    So now I’m in danger of becoming irrelevant, not only in the hood, but in the world? You’re going to dictate what should be offensive to my family?! Then go on to basically tell me how & what I should be teaching my daughters? Can you even see how elitist your comments sound? Also, if you read the post instead going out of your way to teach me how to be a father, you wouldve known that none of this happened in my presence. Looking at your post you must be omnipotent. You surmised why I percieved this guy as a threat-something I never said. You went through a ppl of colors problems( care to take on the root cause?) and what I shoud be teaching my daughters. You don’t know anything about me except what I choose to put out there on this blog, yet your able to tell me what I need to do if I don’t want to become irrelevant in the hood & world. Yes, its elitist attitudes like this I despise.

  13. Green permalink
    June 4, 2009 1:43 pm

    Some people don’t like being around kids. Get over it. There’s more important things going on in the world. Way more important things.

  14. bknesto permalink
    June 4, 2009 3:02 pm

    Hey Greene,

    Do you read? The person wasn’t around kids. And I love the get over it there’s way more important things sentiment- if only I had a dollar for every time I heard that when discussing things with a racial component. I never hear it expressed when newer residents complain about damn near everything that doesn’t appeal directly to them(choir rehearsals, calls to prayer, bodegas, diners etc.).

    At the end of the day this MY blog, I choose the content, if you don’t like it, you can choose not to read. Who would think that a post about MY family’s experience strolling through the hood would somehow bring comments about how I should be parenting and what I should be focusing on that’s important?!

    One thing I’d also like to point out is the fact that even this persons lady friend was offended judging by the tone of her voice. But here we have ppl putting their cape on to explain for this guy.

  15. June 19, 2009 8:42 am

    i wonder if all the people saying ‘get over it’ have ever took a stand for something in their lives that they value. The friendly neighborhood guy who made the comment seemed to miss the memo that he was hanging somewhere that welcomes and values families and the contributions they make to the neighborhood he ‘loves’ so damn much.

    That’s the point.

    And bknesto, i heart your replies to the commenters. Very entertaining and on point.

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