"You forgot Lesson 3. Avoid young black men in Capitol Hill."
--a commenter on the Capitol Hill Seattle blog, in reference to an armed robbery story.
What makes me uncomfortable about what he said, is that I've thought the exact same thing. Not about avoiding young black men, generally, but specifically avoiding them in Capitol Hill. Because if you look through all of CHS' coverage of street crime on the Hill, the perpetrators 95% of the time are young, black, and male. And if you look at the census data for the neighborhood (zip 98112, especially tracks 74-76), the African-American population is between 0 and 10% of the whole.
So...if I don't see that many black people walking around in my neighborhood, and the overwhelming majority of street crime in my neighborhood is committed by young black males, is it rational to be suspicious of the young black males that I do see walking around my neighborhood? I honestly don't know.
In contrast, if you look at my old neighborhood on the census maps (zip 27704, track 102), where there are slightly more black people than white people, it wouldn't make sense to me to view every young black male on the street as a potential threat, because the odds are they are my neighbor and most of my neighbors aren't out to rob me. And you know what...unless they were acting in a suspicious manner, I really never gave young black guys in that neighborhood a second thought when I lived there.
I'm not saying this to try and make some case that I'm not a racist. I know I'm not a racist, and I don't think anyone who knows me would think that I am. But it is interesting (and disquieting) to me how much I find my gut-level reactions being shaped by the neighborhood in which I live. Particularly as I now live in the whitest and most affluent neighborhood I've ever lived in as an adult.
Somehow, this scene seems appropriate.