I guess, occupying the space that I do, I am more concerned about being taken out by an overzealous authority figure or some disenfranchised black youth than I am by a terrorist attack. To help you understand my position, I'll take you with me on a laundry trip last week.
"Thank you," I said to the nice, older sister that held the door for me as I entered the neighborhood laundromat down the street from the Beatties Ford Food Lion. I abhor doing laundry. It is right up there with cleaning tile grout, but it's a necessary evil when I get down to my emergency underwear, as I was that day.
Although I don't like doing laundry, I do like the conversations I participate in or overhear while there. A neighborhood laundromat is like a barber shop in that its residents comfortably discuss various topics that impact our community.
As we chatted about the military-like presence of police in our neighborhoods during my most recent trip, something began brewing outside. Customers began to notice a large group of black youth — mostly males — roaming back and forth in front of the business. It quickly became clear something was amiss. One sister came in announcing what was happening. "These chaps are crazy. They are trying to beat up some boy about something stupid," she said. "He's held up at the Subway. This is why I don't fool with these chaps. They should have their butts in school."
The sentiment was quickly shared by other patrons. One customer threatened to call the police, but others cautioned how that could end badly. Folks here no longer trust intervention from the authorities. It's an awful paradox when people feel threatened from both within and outside their community.
As a career educator, I was astounded at how so many kids could be roaming the streets on a school day unchecked. I watched as young, black youth dressed in almost cliche outfits of hoodies and sagging pants created chaos for their community, all under the watchful eye of one of those remote (tinted because they're usually empty) police units set up in the Food Lion parking lot.
Folks fell back into their routines and conversations until the news interrupted the daytime programming with what looked to be a high speed chase through a residential area. Wait? Did the reporter say near Beatties Ford Road? We could see the vehicle driving recklessly followed by several police vehicles and a helicopter when in a surreal moment we realized the sirens, horns and chopper sounds were coming from outside and not from the television. The officers finally apprehended the driver on LaSalle Street, just next door to the laundromat. Several of us piled out to see police vehicles, emergency and first responders on the scene. The group of black youth held court at the bus stop directly in front of the scene and commenced to putting on a sad minstrel show of buffoonery as to what they would have done if they were in the vehicle. Sadly, the mainstream press eagerly turned their cameras on the spectacle.
The exchange between myself and a few other older residents standing by as we watched the media frenzy summed up the general attitudes about living in what seems at times to be an occupied state. One older brother shared that it was not always like this; this area at one time was a great place to live. A general consensus among the conversants was that folks are conflicted about the police presence in the community.
I personally hope the refugees find shelter, but I have seen firsthand how we treat our less fortunate in this country. Limited resources are not the problem and folks weren't clamoring to assist veterans and the homeless prior to this emergency.
The point of this laundry-day tale is to put things in perspective, and show that some folks are too busy looking after themselves to have the luxury of worrying about the overblown possibility of threats from Syrian refugees. Every day we are dealing with more imminent threats from individuals and agencies much closer to home.