Saturday, September 27, 2008

Would Janell Ross Argue that Calls about These Suspicious Persons "Plague" Police?

At the beginning of this week Tennessean Reporter Janell Ross wrote an article claiming with no substantiation that Metro Police were "plagued" with "suspicious person" phone calls from Edgehill and Salemtown neighborhoods originating when white residents merely saw African Americans on the streets. Before the week was out suspicious persons in Edgehill were involved in two separate shootings, while in Salemtown a teenager, whom I know personally, was shot allegedly by suspicious gang members from outside of the neighborhood (also, a man was shot to death just north of Salemtown earlier this week).

Monday's Tennessean article is looking like a callous farce on Saturday, based on little that actually happens in either Edgehill or Salemtown. Janell Ross is looking like someone who sits in judgment from afar (I'm told that she lives in mostly white, relatively affluent Germantown), and that judgment seems to lack interface with the real potential for crime from suspicious activity on our side of the tracks.

But let's say we take Janell Ross more seriously than she takes us. Let's say we absorb her preconceived bias about our neighborhood. That bias would hamstring neighbors and discourage them from calling the police if they see a man on a bike engaging in suspicious activity or if they see gang members percolating towards the point of boiling over. Janell Ross would have us put our families in harm's way to satisfy whatever cultural agenda she has when she overgeneralizes racial tensions she apparently sees everywhere there is gentrification, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

The Tennessean (owned by Gannett) needs to get out of the practice of employing reporters who have such little regard for the neighborhoods, and they should respond and dignify neighborhood leaders who call them on their exaggerations and misrepresentations. Or maybe they prefer to be in the business of discouraging neighborhoods from working with the police to prevent tragedies like this week's shootings before guns are fired. If that is indeed the case, then our local daily paper is the ultimate suspicious person whom we need to fear and to fight.

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