Sunday, August 14, 2011

White Facebook, colored Facebook

Sometimes, "community" just isn't worth it.

When "community" isn't worth it, it's almost always because what you think might be a community is a clique instead. There's a difference, and it pretty much boils down to all of life being high school in disguise.

Or worse.

This is why I just freed myself from the crack cocaine that's the You Grew Up In Baton Rouge, La. if you remember when...... group on
Facebook. Had to do it, because as tempting (and addicting) as it is to endlessly wander down Memory Lane -- to give free reign to the part of your brain where you're always 17 and the world's still your oyster -- the group devoted to reminiscing about my old hometown had one gigantic -- and fatal -- flaw.

It was too damned much like my old hometown.

"I can't quit you" quickly became "I gotta quit you" once I got to thinking about it and realized that -- as much as I love history and pop culture -- the online Baton Rouge of days gone by pretty much embodied everything I loathed about the real Baton Rouge of days gone by. And the 2011 version, too.

IN OTHER WORDS, we have a community that:
* Would rather live in the past than look to the future (much less invest in it),

* Still bitches about "forced busing,"

* From the relative safety of purgatory, whines about the sorry state of the fresh ghetto hell that is the old stomping grounds,

* Waxes rhapsodic about "the good ol' days" which, by the way, happened to coincide with segregated schools, "separate but equal," casual cruelty and routine human-rights violations as both governmental policy and the traditional model for organizing society.

* Is still massively, mindlessly and habitually segregated by race and by class.
IN FACT, having noticed that almost everyone I ran across on the group seemed to be a) middle-aged and older, and b) white, I did a quick scroll through the 3,259 members of the group. Of the names that had corresponding profile photos, I counted four black faces. I could have missed some, but I'll bet not many.

Out of all those Baton Rougeans, just four African-Americans.

It's probably just as well. I can't imagine how crazy it would make me, if I were black, to read the unrelenting subtext of so many threads --
subtext that threatens, with a little prodding, to become pretext at any moment.

Oh, no one says anything outright, but you don't really have to within the clique, now do you?
Name deleted
How about when Baton Rouge was generally a safe place to live!
12 hours ago

19 people like this.
Name deleted Yes when you did not think twice about leaving doors/windows open or cars for that matter. I don’t know that we ever locked cars when we went any place much less worried about someone shooing us if we went out at night by ourselves.
11 hours ago

Name deleted
what about when Grand drive and Winabago St. were the places to live, not the places to die.
11 hours ago

Name deleted Yeah, but these things are generally true of most of America. There are few, if any, places that people are as safe today as we were in the 60s in Baton Rouge, La.
11 hours ago

Name deleted I moved to Mississippi because of the way things were going. I now take after The Hank Jr. song The woman, the kids, the dogs and me.
11 hours ago

Name deleted SherHOOD Forest as it is known today
11 hours ago

Name deleted I grew up on N. 11th when we used to play outside and ride our bikes all through the neighborhood including to the State Capitol ... imagine doing that today
10 hours ago

Name deleted i lived on the corner of sherwood forest and goodwood and every time i pass broadmoor jr high, it makes me sick to look at it and broadmoor high being a substandard school when it was one of the best in the city is ridiculous.
9 hours ago

Name deleted Yes! thinking about the Regina theater (see above) we would walk to the evening feature from mohican street and walk back after 10 p.m. and never a fear did we have.
9 hours ago

Name deleted I went to Broadmoor Junior High "back in the day" (1973-76), and if it was one of the best in the city, maybe the BR of our memories wasn't as great as we think. The city's public schools are just that -- public -- and as such, the public bears ultimate responsibility for them.
9 hours ago

Name deleted It is a shame. We moved away 20 years ago when my daughter was in 2nd grade at Jefferson Terrace and were told she would be bussed to DuFroc. I'm back now and it breaks my heart to drive through neighborhoods I lived and see what they have become. I still love my city just a bit more cautious.
8 hours ago

Name deleted I rode a bike with a large basket full of drugs making delieveries for my Dad's drug store all over N. Baton Rouge. Want to try that today?
7 hours ago

Name deleted A group of us girls that lived in the dorm on Laurel Street would walk downtown to a movie and walk home at midnight never thinking a thing about it. Never had a problem doing that back in 1960.
7 hours ago

Name deleted I moved to BR in 66 and stayed until 72 which covered the 2nd to 8th grades. We lived in Villa Del Rey and it was awesome to rome about without any worries. I will always cherish my childhood days growing in a safe place called Baton Rouge!!
6 hours ago . . .

Name deleted Went back one day to Enterprise street in NBR, couldn't pic out my house, but boy did I have everyone's attention!
3 hours ago

PAINTING WITH rather a broad brush, aren't we?

Yes, it's indisputable that America has a crime problem in poor minority neighborhoods, a.k.a., "the 'hood." It's also indisputable that America has problems in poor neighborhoods, period. And finally, it's indisputable that poor people have lots of problems.

They have problems because they're poor; they're poor because they have problems. One overarching problem of poverty is a systematic lack of opportunity, whether it be from a dysfunctional culture, a lack of material resources, a lack of role models or a lack of enough food -- or at least nutritious food -- in your stomach.

And perhaps the biggest problem of all is that of being ostracized. It's just like the north Baton Rouge girls blackballed from Louisiana State University sororities (and, years later, the Junior League) because they grew up blue collar . . . only worse. At least when you've grown up working class, you conceivably can lie about it and pass for bourgeois.


On the other hand, we have yet to see the first successful race-change operation. And when black becomes synonymous in certain circles with poor and dysfunctional, you have one element of perception as destiny.

The first step from Idyllic Neighborhood of Our Lily White Childhood to the abyss of Today's Ghetto Hell came when somebody with a decent union job at the refinery decided the grass was greener out east in suburbia -- or at least that the air was a lot less stinky -- and he and his family left. The second step came when the feds said African-Americans could damn well live wherever they wanted to, and then one of them moved into an
Idyllic Neighborhood of Our Lily White Childhood.

And then the white folks left. Most all of them
in the span of a decade and a half. In came the slumlords. And so did the poor . . . and their problems.

I wonder what would have happened had all the whites not taken flight? If you had had working-class blacks living next to working-class whites as the rule and not the exception.

What if middle-class blacks, back in 1970, routinely had lived next door to working-class whites, etc., and so on? What if whole areas of today's perceived Hellhole Baton Rouge had been a diverse patchwork instead of a single shade of poor and multiple layers of dysfunctional?

What if all the people bitching and moaning about Paradise Lost hadn't hauled butt East of Eden because "They" were moving into the neighborhood?

What if white Baton Rouge, as soon as "forced busing" started, hadn't up and remade itself into white Livingston and Ascension parishes (not to mention white private-education enthusiasts)? What if white Baton Rouge hadn't up and left the East Baton Rouge Parish public schools overwhelmingly minority, poor and on their own? Would some credit to the white race still be compelled to tell Facebook peeps that "
every time i pass broadmoor jr high, it makes me sick to look at it and broadmoor high being a substandard school when it was one of the best in the city is ridiculous."

Obviously, being Southern, white and nostalgic means never having to put [sic] after anything you write.

And what if You Grew Up In Baton Rouge, La. if you remember when...... had been more than .125 percent black? I wonder whether anyone might have learned anything beyond what their prejudices whisper to their fears and their fears tell their parochialism and their parochialism shouts to the world with cocksure authority?


Carmen said...

I adore your blog! I grew up in BR in the 70's and left ASAP. Every time I have to return there to visit, I am amazed at how horrid a place it is.
That FB "you know you grew up in BR" thing also made me ill. Although I didn't join the group, some of my FB friends were on it so I was subject to the awful memories.
Keep the blog posts coming! You always say exactly what I've been thinking, but so much more eloquently than I could!

The Mighty Favog said...

Then you must have had the strange mutually exclusive sensation of, when you're there, simultaneously feeling a little more comfortable in your own skin *and* completely alienated.

Of knowing you're of these people while knowing you're no longer of these people.

Of understanding completely and understanding you would go stark raving mad if you still had to live amid what you understand so well.

If you follow my Baton Rouge- and Louisiana-related posts, you can pretty much follow my intellectual and emotional journey of, on one hand, having sympathy for these people and, on the other, having damned little patience for their shenanigans, which grew old long ago.

It's like watching a doomed culture die from afar. This is because it is watching a doomed culture die from afar.

To live away from Louisiana, anymore, is akin to watching your far-away kinsman as he holds a loaded gun to his head, powerless to stop him from pulling the trigger.

To live in Louisiana is akin to having your kinsman hold a loaded gun to your head, powerless to keep him from pulling the trigger.

Far away from the Gret Stet, we muddle through. This is an improvement over the alternative.

The Mighty Favog said...

And, Carmen, thank you for your kind words.

Carmen said...

Aahhh, once again you have climbed into my head and said exactly what is in there! Awesome. Glad to know I'm not the only one who feels like this about LA & BR.
Sadly, I do have to return there about twice a year since my parents and other family still live there. I can't say to them how I really feel about the place. My Dad said he thinks I have rejected my Southern heritage--and I suppose I have, though I'm not sure what that IS. Prejudice? Thinking you're better than others? Hmmm...