Kitty Power

The War At Home


I’ll return to the shallow side of life soon. I can’t help but note though that this summer has been like high season for the (not-so) closet racist/classists assholes who populate too many corners of where many of us have to live and interact everyday. But then again, it’s only racists when white robes and hoods and crosses are involved and we’re all middle class in America, so class biased against who? They make me fucking ill. And in general, I’m feeling a little aggro.
I’ve been having a war of wills with some dudes on the block. If you know me, you know that I don’t take any shit. You want to argue? Let’s go. If you’re going to fuck with me, I’m not going to roll over and play dead. I am very well aware of my status as gentrifyier. I pay too much to live on a 4th floor walkup in terns of my neighbors, but comparitively to what they’re trying to get around here almost a year later, we’re not getting shafted that badly in terms of the NYC housing market. But, I also know that I blend in pretty well being brown (Ant, about halfway. There’s a shortage of non-commercial enterprise affiliated Asian men in our neighborhood). The fact I’m young, black, and (assumed to be) “rich” yet moved in here is like a novelty to some of the neighbors. I get on pretty well with the old guy next door and the family below a.k.a. the ones I see the most but, the dudes outside (and some of the ones inside) are a different story.
I’ll always be a sociologist at heart, so I can easily break down the problem. I’m young, black, (appearingly) single, “new” to the block, passing through quickly and quietly for the most part, not especially engaged what’s happening on the block. They’re young, black also, probably grew up here, spending all their time hanging on the block –the gate between my building and the one next door in particular — in groups. They know everyone around but me and I’m not especially open because I spend upwards of 10 hours at work/in transit and when I’m around, I’ve got tunnel vision trained on dinner/quality time at home/bed.
It may be a neighborhood thing. On my block in East New York, I knew everyone and my family had two houses next door to each other. I didn’t really think of hanging out on the stoop when I could just go inside. No one was really big on hanging out in the front there. Maybe to play rope or run around or whatever, but not just to sit. To say my apartment has been an oven this summer is the understatement of the year. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to escape and stand outside. When you’re standing around with people you know, it’s a social thing. Everyone’s been hanging out for hours when I stumble along, sweaty and tired at 7 or whenever, so they’re all relaxed and shit while I’m focused and on edge. And it doesn’t make it easier when I’m trying to do a Point A to Point B and they’re staring me down. And I’m not especially open to anyone looking me up and down like a steak on a plate either. We’re at an impasse.
The other week, I was headed from laundry and one of the dudes who is always hanging out was standing there alone. He said hello and I replied neutrally.
“Oh, I thought you didn’t speak,” he said, kinda snidely.
Defense mechanism popped up. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well, you never say anything when we’re hanging the block.”
“I’m not going to say anything when I’m all distracted and tired.”
I went inside and that was that. A few days later, I’m late as shit for work and popping out to run to the train and hope I can still make it in decent time. Some guys are standing in the typical spot at 9am and I’m not paying attention and just hauling. I hear a voice behind me say, “I see how you are.”
And I was thinking about it the rest of the day. It bothers me that there’s some sort of antagonistic relationship. Part of me is like “We’re more alike than we’re different. Why’s there got to be some resentful bullshit when you don’t even know me?” And then I think “fuck ’em. They’re not keepers of the fucking block. They can hang out and chill all day because they don’t have jobs and they’re living with their mothers. Fuck that giving me shit because I’m not peppy enough. My apartment doesn’t pay for itself and I’ve gotta do what I gotta do and fuck what they think.” There’s nothing that I can especially do about it. Am I supposed to bake them cookies? Fuck that. This one will probably be a stalemate unless some random day the bridge is crossed. We’ll see.


  1. i struggle with this on my block as well. a group of older men is always sitting on the stoop next door to my bldg. they always want me to say hi to them. i do not feel like speaking to anyone on the street, i 99.9% of the time NEVER feel like speaking to people on the street, and yet i feel obligated on some “black people speak to black people” shit. so they have won the war because i mumble hi or how you doin to them when i stumble into the house every evening.
    i don’t even really understand it. but what i gather is a large faction of our people feel disrespected if their hellos are not responded to. its a personal affront.

  2. I don’t think the hi thing itself is what bothers me more than some strangers trying to psyche me out/challenge me. It’s not friendly, so it makes me defensive and wanting even less to deal with them. It’s like a pissing contest.

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