Posts Tagged ‘racism’

On The Street Where You Live

February 12, 2011

Street Scene: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944).

Do you remember those beautiful street scenes from the 1944 movie classic, “Meet Me in St. Louis?” They depicted how “nice neighborhoods” supposedly looked back in 1903-1904, when St. Louis and the rest of the nation was innocently building toward a better America tomorrow. The pictures struck a chord with the likes of artists like Norman Rockwell and the earlier Currier and Ives, who were already dreaming pretty much full time of a “White Christmas” for all real Americans, even for those who lived in the Florida Keys.

Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians didn’t enter into the picture of the American “way of life” back then, except to appear as service people to those fine folks who lived in Judy Garland’s old stomping grounds at the time of the 1904 World’s Fair. And, if I remember correctly, the only two service people who appeared in the St. Louis film also were white. Marjorie Main played the family’s housekeeper-cook and Chill Wills played the milk man.

Street Scene: West Side Story (1961).

Seventeen years and several thousand social changes later, America still struggled with civil rights and immigration issues that were changing the acknowledged face of our country. By 1961, still the pre-dawn hours of great legal and social changes that would soon jolt the loud and quiet lifestyles of racial segregation in the South and North, moviemakers honed in on racial issues through movies like “West Side Story.” The good news behind the west side story, I guess, is that, if you can make a movie about people singing and dancing before they kill each other, then maybe there’s hope for working things out in a more civil form,¬†somewhere down the road.

I don’t have any racial profile pictures of street scenes from 2011 and I think that’s great. Our own neighborhood, indeed, our own household is racially mixed. Like most places in Houston, we know some of our neighbors, but most are strangers in transient residence. From what I can see and know, we’ve got just about every ethnic, racial, and religious base covered to the “nth” degree on our street – and, at twenty-five years and counting, we remain as the senior time residents on our block.

What matters to me is how we value each other’s right to be different from one another and to have the right to live our lives as we see fit, as long as our wishes do not intrude upon the freedoms of our neighbors. I seem to get along and become friends with people who understand and also value that same little two-step – but not so with those who want to tell me what America should look like – or how I should live or vote.

Relatedly, a new neighborhood question is arising with advances in technology and communication over the Internet. I am reminded of the fact quite strongly by an e-mail I received yesterday from an old high school classmate, Vito Schlabra. It contained a link that will show you if any of the people in your neighborhood have a record as convicted felons Рand it will give you their names, locations, and the nature of their specific  convictions too.

All you have to do is click onto this link and then type in any American street address at the top of the page to check out any area of interest:

Several arising questions, among many, are as follows: Do you think making this kind of information available is a good idea? Do convicted felons have a right to seal away their past records after they have served their prescribed time? What about people who have been convicted of crimes against children, convicted arsonists, or people found guilty of home invasions? Do these people need to be publicly identified forever? And, hey, what are we going to do about it, if we don’t like what we find out about our neighbors? That’s the big “so what” question we have to embrace sensibly about this kind of information. along with, – “what about people who may get wrongly identified as convicted criminals – or people who move into houses that remain identified as the homes of convicted criminals who formerly lived there?”

It gets pretty tough to see the merits of a database that could be so easily misused. In fact, my use of the link here does not come with any warrant that the information is accurate – nor is it intended to defame anyone whose name appears here through this data source. It is just a another fact of our life in these changing times. And we have to actively decide how to use this technology before it robs us of the choice by its very existence and widespread use without much thought.

With all those delightful little thoughts in mind, have a nice weekend – on the street where you live – wherever that may be.

And one Big PS: If you have time today, please join Jimmy Wynn and me at Barnes & Noble in Deerbrook Mall in Humble today. Jimmy will be there to sign copies of his book, and one other item for book purchasers from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM today. It was my humble honor to work with Jimmy on “Toy Cannon: The Autobiography of Baseball’s Jimmy Wynn” and I would also enjoy meeting any of you who made the effort to join us and also hear Jimmy talk some about the book and his life in baseball.

Deerbrook Mall is located out Highway 59 North at the 1960 exit.

If you cannot make it in person today, here’s a link for ordering Toy Cannon through Barnes & Noble: