On crime, women, and Southie

Over the last few days there have been attacks in Boston that are very, very close to home. I wasn’t there when they happened, though I was in the immediate aftermath, and have been following the story from not-too-far.

Some of my observations are the same I have every time there is violent crime reported in the media, but my reactions this time feel much more personal. None of these observations are meant to detract from the tragedy of the death of one victim and the assaults on two others. I hope that I’m not dishonoring anyone by offering some reflections on how we collectively process this kind of news.

First, let me ask everyone to stop telling me to be scared. I’m not scared, I’m pissed and sad. I’m pissed because someone could do this to other human beings, and I’m sad because someone could do this to other human beings.

Advice started being offered to people in my neighborhood not long after the attacks that we shouldn’t go anywhere by ourselves. Oh, wait, let me clarify: that advice was being offered to women only. One of the articles in today’s Globe has plenty of quotes about what women “should” and “shouldn’t” do. I guess now I need pepper spray and to bring my boyfriend with me to protect me all the time.

This reaction, trotted out any time there is violence against women, irks me. Most women – nay, people – are always alert, and always aware. What kind of person should be expected to never go out alone?

And where are the people giving advice to the other half of the population. If every woman is a potential victim, is every man a potential attacker? Instead of saying to women “stop being victims”, where are the voices saying to men “stop stabbing”? (For more on this, please read the work of Jackson Katz. PLEASE)

South Boston is on an interesting precipice, one that it’s been perched on for the ten years that I have lived there – it’s somewhere between “a place where crime is unremarkable” and “this sort of thing doesn’t happen here”. A lot of the coverage – including the article I linked before – comments on how the neighborhood is full of young professional women now. It’s disheartening to me that only with the influx of a new population does crime become newsworthy.

At the same time, there’s the opinion floating around that if one could only get out of the city, or away from the “bad guys”, that one would somehow be safe. When someone is hurt outside of the city, you never hear the advice that people should move out of the suburbs, because that doesn’t fit our cultural narrative. Instead you hear “that sort of thing doesn’t happen here”, when the truth, as we all know, is that all sorts of things, good and bad, happen everywhere.

I literally cannot remember a time when I have felt unsafe in my neighborhood. Even when my apartment was burglarized years ago, I always felt like there were people around looking out for me. I have tried to form relationships with my neighbors and to get to know the terrain. Living a few blocks from housing projects I’ve learned that they are filled with real people, just like me. The whole neighborhood is a mix of people, all of whom have something to offer, and all of whom have dignity.

I had hopes that this would be more eloquent, that I could somehow clarify the jumble of thoughts and emotions that have been swirling in the 24 hours since I first heard that  terrible things happened within earshot of my apartment. I am saddened at the way this story is being told, and I am heartbroken for the people hurt and killed.

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