Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On Brooklyn's Streets

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

On Brooklyn's Streets

Article excerpt

I LIVE six blocks from Church Avenue, the site of the boycott against the two Korean grocers. Each time I open a newspaper, or turn on the TV, I see my neighborhood - at this moment a handsomely dressed anchorman is standing on my corner - and I don't recognize the portrait.

There are social problems galore in our neighborhood - children who shield their crack-dealing mothers, teenagers who give birth and become fixtures on stoops - but racial hatred, though it makes great headlines, is not part of the fabric here.

Six years ago, when my husband and I, former residents of the East Village and Upper West Side, put down a deposit on a house here, I cried, overwhelmed by the idea of being one of the few whites in a black neighborhood. I needn't have worried. I soon became absorbed in the warm, busybody quality of our block. Advice and criticism are freely given - and people automatically help each other out. Racial differences are noted, of course - there are at least a dozen ethnic groups here - but they don't stop alliances from forming.

Since moving to Brooklyn, I've been the object of two incidents - both outside my neighborhood - which the media would be quick to call bias-related. A tall woman, a crack addict, attacked me as I was walking by Prospect Park. As we struggled over my shoulder bag, she beat my shoulders and dragged me, the lighter one, along the sidewalk. There was a happy ending - a Good Samaritan jumped out of his car, pinning my attacker, until two mounted police galloped up. The woman was jailed.

The first question my neighbors asked me about the incident was: Was she black? Well, yes, she was. But I don't know that my color had much to do with her choice. I'm small; my bag was hanging loosely from my shoulder; and at the moment she stalked me, I was in a rare, unguarded state of bliss, thinking about my little boy.

In Park Slope, a well-dressed black man, as he passed me, spat fully into my face. As I stood there, stunned, he shot me a smile, as if I'd made his day. I kept staring at his retreating back, thinking: Why? Because I'm a woman? Because I'm white? I was furious for days. …

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