The author (a white guy) discusses the state of race relationships with other white people in different sections of Philadelphia. Let’s just say it was not warmly received by blacks when it was published in Philadelphia magazine.
Whites, race, class, and the things that never get said.
I’ve shared my view of North Broad Street with people—white friends and colleagues—who see something else there: New buildings. Progress. Gentrification. They’re sunny about the area around Temple. I think they’re blind, that they’ve stopped looking. Indeed, I’ve begun to think that most white people stopped looking around at large segments of our city, at our poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods, a long time ago. One of the reasons, plainly put, is queasiness over race. Many of those neighborhoods are predominantly African-American. And if you’re white, you don’t merely avoid them—you do your best to erase them from your thoughts.
At the same time, white Philadelphians think a great deal about race. Begin to talk to people, and it’s clear it’s a dominant motif in and around our city. Everyone seems to have a story, often an uncomfortable story, about how white and black people relate.
Take a young woman I’ll call Susan, whom I met recently. She lost her BlackBerry in a biology lab at Villanova and Facebooked all the class members she could find, “wondering if you happened to pick it up or know who did.” No one had it. There was one black student in the class, whom I’ll call Carol, who responded: “Why would I just happen to pick up a BlackBerry and if this is a personal message I’m offended!”
Susan assured her that she had Facebooked the whole class. Carol wrote: “Next time be careful what type of messages you send around and what you say in them.”
Most whites after getting fed up just leave Philadelphia. I used to commute to Center City Philadelphia from New Jersey back in the early 90s. At the time that was fine. I never had any problems. My commute abruptly came to an end when my employer was sold. The next thing I knew I was on a plane to Seattle.
It appears that Center City has changed. In Philadelphia there is no downtown. It’s called Center City instead.
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