Janell Ross's piece in the Tennessean this morning on police calls and racial profiling is sketchy, provides no statistics or fact-based hypotheses for tensions in transitional neighborhoods, and generally rests on the interviews of a handful people in two very different neighborhoods: Germantown and Salemtown (hard to tell which, because Ross gives no specific locations outside of 7th Avenue, North).
Ross refers to a "Murder Mart" on 7th. That's a name I've not heard used by Salemtown residents before, and I can only think of one convenience store on that street. It's in Salemtown. The manager was shot during a hold up there not too long ago. I don't remember the Tennessean covering that story. Or one about a report on the Salemtown listserv that a young girl who lives here was solicited for sex outside the market.
That store is owned by a white man named Kenny Norman, who has powerful and wealthy family connections in Nashville, a detail Janell Ross did not mention in her story. In the past, there have been allegations that the market sold beer out its back door before receiving a license and it was raided by police for having illegal gambling devices. Neighbors have reported in the past to being harassed with cat calls from groups of men who loiter on the sidewalk and drink beer. It took police some time to obtain a no trespass waiver from the manager to keep loiters off the property after hours. One African American who lives near the market told me that she was tired of loiterers coming into and trashing her yard. I don't know if the market is the one to which Ross refers, but it has been a liability to our neighborhood.
I believe that a serious look at racial tensions in transitional neighborhoods would be a positive and progressive contribution to the dialogue, but Ross's piece does not give that look. Police have encouraged the Salemtown crime watch to make calls about any suspicious activity we see. I've made calls on a number of white people driving vehicles with Rutherford and Wilson County tags who park at suspected drug houses for five minutes each stop. I make calls about anyone I don't recognize as living here who are looking in windows, parking at night in the middle of the alley with headlights off, passing money and paraphernalia through car windows, standing on the corner propositioning passing cars. I've called the police about men exposing themselves on a street where children play to take a piss. It doesn't matter to me what race they are. African American neighbors here tell me they do the same. Last week an African American homeowner came over to warn me that someone had tried to siphon gas out of his vehicle.
According to Metro, Salemtown is a predominantly (over 83%) African American neighborhood with over 50% of the properties owned by absentee landlords. We have a huge number of rental properties, which means to me that our population is going to be just as transitional and mobile as the economic situation of the community is rapidly changing. So, there is going to be some misunderstanding that can be cleared up by neighbors working together on an effective crime watch. And frankly we have a lot of blight that attracts people of different races from outside of Salemtown. I would like to see more study done on economic racism and the location of blight and alcohol-hawking convenience stores in predominantly African American communities. Wealth can be a vehicle for he most insidious and virulent forms of racism.
Nonetheless, charges of racism are serious and should be seriously explored. It's too bad that the Tennessean's Janell Ross failed to contribute a serious exploration the issue.