I was seated at my desk when I heard lots of noise in my front yard. Honestly, I figured someone was probably trying to cut a bike lock so I got up to go check it out. I looked out the window and saw a lot of white people, with trash-bags and gloves, all wearing the same shirt that said “United Way” and “We Care”. I was surprised at how angry I felt at seeing them. My chest pounded and I thought “If one of those fudgers picks up any trash from my yard I am going to scream.” They didn’t because there wasn’t any to pick-up.
People wanted to know why I felt so angry, here is a list of reasons:
1. It is patronizing and insulting that you think you care about my neighborhood but that I don’t? I know my neighbors, they know me, we take care of our neighborhood. We are not some lazy slobs who can’t take care of ourselves and need you to fix our woeful problems.
2. This reeks of gentrification. Do you think our neighborhood would only be nicer if we cleaned it up a bit; then your investment on those overpriced new college student apartments on the corner will be worth it? Just protecting your investment are you?
3. Our street doesn’t have any trash in fact street sweeping people just came through yesterday, so why do you think we need your help? Thanks for being so condescending.
4. Want to help our neighborhood? Ask what we need. Who are you to tell us we need to clean? Actually you didn’t even tell us let alone ask you just did it. You know what our neighborhood actually needs? More street lights, better sidewalks, and for you not to drive 45mph on our 25mph street as you use it as a thoroughfare to your jobs.
5. We are a mixed race neighborhood. It spews of racism and classism at the idea, that you know what is better for us, and send out white, well dressed people to take care of us.
6. A complaint as much as a question, does your sense of entitlement that you can walk into my yard and decide what is appropriate come from your racism or your classism? Or are they so intertwined that it is impossible to know where your entitlement comes from? I am glad you didn’t try to take away my compost pile.
7. You made a judgement call, and although your intentions may have been good, your judgement of my neighborhood, of me, was insulting. Let’s say you came over to my house uninvited, came into my kitchen and started to organize mop the floor, your intention may have been to help me clean-up but it would be insulting and unsolicited.
So yes this list could be shorter (and most assuredly a bit redundant) but I think El Pocho Abogado summed it up best:
I think when people do the basic kind of services in your neighborhood and UW doesn’t ask if you want to participate or give you notice, then it’s pretty patronizing. Most people don’t like to be thought of as charity cases. It’s pretty rude to assume they are. A lot of times those assumptions are tinged with racism.