Guest Post: Observations on the “Hood”

-While I’m gone, Mithrawnudo is back to fill in for me. Thank you very much, good sir.

-Hello everyone. I’ve once again hijacked Hellfire’s baby. Though this is probably going to be relatively short, and it’s mostly his fault I’m posting this anyways. You see, he and I were talking about old work stories and he apparently thought my observations worth sharing, so here I am. Oh, I suppose I should give a bit of a trigger warning. There will be “foul language” for those who care about such things.

First the background. Much like what he’s doing now, I worked seasonally as a landscaper to help pay for university, and it was the first job I ever had. Most of the other employees were Blacks or rednecks, with a handful of Latinos. So as a white, middle class kid who never had to work through high school I stuck out. However I found that all these classifications and barriers we’re all told exist and pit us against each other don’t really seem to exist (but that’s not really the topic I wish to touch on today). I became good friends with pretty much everyone I worked with, and received the nickname “Professor” from my coworkers (they had fun names like “June Bug,” “Old Skool,” “Snakebite,” and “Rico”) and particularly liked listening to and discussing things with my Black coworkers.

My final summer working with them, they decided they needed to “turn me Black” and invited me to hang out in the projects with them one weekend. I was happy to accept, so one Saturday I head into the projects in my khakis and polo shirt, totting a few local micro-brewery beers to share with the guys. I had a fantastic time sitting on the porch and chatting with coworkers and strangers and spent half a day there.

Now to my observations. While I had a great time, there was one thing which made me very sad. Simply put, every exchange seemed to be economic in nature. What I mean by that is that it seemed to me that nearly nothing was done on goodwill or charity or friendship, but rather seemed to be about what someone could get out of another, or receiving payment in one form or another. For example, one woman in the community came up to the group of men I was sitting and conversing with asking a seemingly minor request (specifically what, I have forgotten, since it was the response which caught my attention). The man responded with something to the effect of, “You gonna fuck me?” to which she replied with an emphatic no. This he responded to with, “Then go ask the guy you’re fucking.” There is then a short conversation where she’s still trying to find someone to do whatever minor task she needs assistance with, the entire time the man is asking for sex as a prerequisite or some other ridiculous compensation. When she finally left, everyone seemed to be in agreement that she was out of line to ask for something (anything, it seemed) without putting out or paying up.

It wasn’t just a male/female dynamic either. There seemed to be little true friendship, no one stepping up to help each other, but rather a sort of opportunism that everyone knew every other person there was out to get as much from those around them as possible. It seemed to me that there was little to no “brotherhood” in the “hood”. No one was really looking out for his brother, but more like looking for an advantage over him.

So that was basically the extent of my conversation with Hellfire, but in the days since our conversation I’ve thought of a hypothesis of sorts. What happens to a person who grows up in such a community? If those who are sharing in his troubles and belong to the same “group” as him are constantly out to get him, if he never develops community with those who aren’t a part of his “group,” is it any wonder that such an individual perceives every action by every strange person from different circumstances as inherently hostile? How is such a person to believe that the “other” is not an enemy when those he has “fellowship” with are largely manipulative mercenaries?

Now, obviously a huge grain of salt must be taken with what I have just written. It’s merely anecdotal evidence from a single event. I could easily be misconceiving things, or wrongly emphasizing some things over others. As a counter example, there was one particular woman in the community which cooked up chicken neck (for those who don’t know, the literal neck of a chicken is fried, when things are tight you are very efficient with every bit of food you have) and served them to the entire group that had gathered, almost like hors d’oeuvres. My coworkers seemed to get a kick out of “Professah chowing down on some chicken neck!” (not a whole lot of meat on them, of course, but chicken is tasty regardless of how much there is). In any case, make of this what you will.

[Hellfire note: Yes indeed, chicken is amazing! I have made at least one friend while standing in line for it]

Well, turned out not to be quite as short as I expected. I hope this glimpse I have had has given you a new perspective, or at least something interesting to consider.

-Mith
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