A very uncomfortable post about black crime

Jul 5th, 2008 | By | Category: Social

Without commenting on whether my skin color makes me a mark, saying it’s just a matter of being street smart is a little too cute. I grew up on the Upper West Side pre-gentrification; I’ve lived in West Philadelphia and on the South Side of Chicago (safest place I’ve ever lived); and I now live a few blocks from that shooting. I know what to look for and I’m aware of my surroundings, and luckily, I managed to foil a mugging six months ago because I’m street smart enough to have known something was wrong.

But I was also *lucky*. Lucky that a mugger picked me up on a busy and well lighted street that gave me somewhere to pause and wait for him to go away (presumably to mug someone else). Lucky that he was, even for a mugger, incredibly stupid. Most of the people I know who have been mugged here didn’t get mugged because they were fiddling with their iPhone while drinking a beer; they were doing crazy, un-street smart stuff like walking from a cab to their front door.

Looking street smart isn’t going to make it any less obvious that I am a) middle class, and therefore may have something to steal and b) a tall but pretty scrawny woman who all but the weakest man could easily beat up even without a weapon. A tough, focused look while walking down an empty street will tell them what–that I’m going to be *really, really snotty* when they take my wallet?

The other thing you may want to consider is that I was 33 before I had a crime successfully committed against me. I was a whole lot braver, and a whole lot more convinced of my street smarts, before I was robbed. Now I realize that it was probably just random–I didn’t happen to run into a mugger. Blaming the victim is pretty common, because we don’t want to believe it can happen to us, so it’s much nicer to think that they must have brought it on themselves–we do this for almost everything, from layoffs to unemployment. But it’s a mistake for lots of reasons. Obviously, people do get mugged when they do something very ill advised. But lots of people get mugged when they do everything right, and it’s pretty annoying to be told that it *must* have been your fault, because if you’d known what you were doing it wouldn’t have happened.

A friend of mine had a guy leap out of a dark doorway, hit her in the back of the head with a brick, and beat the crap out of her before leaving her unconscious on the street. I have a hard time believing that any of the people confidently proclaiming their street smarts really have some sort of spidey sense that would have permitted them to see someone hiding behind a closed door that looked just like every other closed door on a deserted street.

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