Friday, March 6, 2015

A Tale of Two Tompkinsvilles

My apologies to all zero of my followers for not maintaining this blog more regularly.  I had some posts in the works, but as is my habit, a terrible habit for blogging, I tried to make too much of them. And so they lay dormant--for the time being at least.  

I'm going to try to break this habit and work to make this a blog that will be useful, at least for my students, if for no one else.  I think it will also prove to be good for me.  I love blogging--well, I love the concept of it at least.  It's high-risk: you may say something stupid that you'd wish you never said, much less to have it eternally memorialized on the World Wide Web.  Yet, the risk is not without reward.  So I say something stupid?  Surely, I will if I keep this up--if I haven't already.  The beauty of this form of communication is that someone out there can, at least in theory, correct my stupidity much more easily and much more quickly than would be the case if I said something stupid in an academic article; or if what I'm saying is somewhere in the range of half-sensible and half-stupid, we can engage in debate that might otherwise not be possible and, together, maybe even reach a more sensible way of thinking.

So much for that--for now.

At the moment, I merely want to post some photos that I took a few months ago of what I'm calling the "Two Tompkinsvilles."

Tompkinsville, of course, is the neighborhood in Staten Island where an NYPD officer choked Eric Garner to death.  It is also, to my surprise, a place where one (though certainly not the Eric Garners of the world) can live quite comfortably, as you'll soon see, with brilliant views of the the NYC skyline.

That is so long as you're living on the "right side" of the neighborhood.

A couple of quick points as background: (1) almost no homicides have occurred over the past several years in Tompskinsville, which calls into question the kind of Broken-Windows logic that supposedly justifed, in the eyes of some, the aggressive policing of low-level offenses like selling loose cigarettes; and (2) as far as I know, the photos you see below--and the stark inequality between those who have and those who don't, even in one little Staten Island neighborhood--have not been a big part, if a part at all, of the discussions and debates about policing the poor in New York City and in the U.S. more generally.

There's so much more to say, so much more I wish I had time to say, but I'll hope, in this instance at least, pictures will speak much more loudly than words.  

I took the photos you see below on the second of two trips to Tompkinsville to see what the neighborhood was like. What you see below are different scenes from the neighborhood, showing what some once talked about as "The Two Americas." The homes you see with the view of the NYC skyline are just a few-minute walk from where Eric Garner was killed.  There is even a concrete path  (pictured below) connecting the two Tompkinsvilles.

The pictures surely do not tell us the whole story--in fact, some photos that I'm holding back for now suggest a more complicated story than many might expect--yet they do raise crucially important questions, not just about policing, but about what, and who, we are as a society.  

More words to come later.  For now, the pictures: