Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nashville Scene judges Belle Meade a better place than Centennial Park for kids, dogs, and families

Nashville Scene writers tend to mount the high horse when the subject of excluding certain groups of people in Belle Meade pops on to their radar. Yet, since May 17, they've said nothing about the fact that their parent company's Movies in the Park event has been removed from the gritty hydrangeas and the streetwise ducks of Centennial Park to the nerve-settling pastoral milieu of suburban Belle Meade's Percy Warner Park.

The "alternative" newsweekly's professional flack told local public radio that the rationale for the Belle Meade move is to keep "this a place where people feel comfortable bringing their kids and their dogs and their families". Reportedly, there was some gang activity at one of last year's events that included gun play (no injuries), and the intrepid newspaper blinked and it is fleeing to the exurbs with its films. Even so, the marketing director did not seem to grasp the sobering and breathtaking implications of what she was saying: predominantly white West Nashville is no longer as safe for kids, dogs, and families as 99% white Belle Meade.

Capt. Dobie woulda cleaned up Centennial Park's mean streets
because white flight was not an option
This should prick all kinds of historic issues for those of us in North Nashville. West Nashville is flooded with events and services at a level that we do not enjoy. Resources flow west and east in this city, and rarely north and south. So, if the Nashville Scene judges West Nashville unfit to hold events for kids, dogs, and families, how much more will they feel led to neglect the families in our diverse communities because of their own fears?

I don't necessarily blame Scene bloggers for promoting and not criticizing the move, because they have to think about their jobs in an uncertain journalism world. However, they've dropped a couple of perches from their moral high ground on the problems of prejudice in lordly Belle Meade. After all, country clubs in places like Belle Meade are by definition exclusionary. And where country club aristocracy was not built on institutionalized segregation, then it exists with the aid of economic inequities and hoarded resources that never even trickle down to working class and under-class folk. Criticizing the Belle Meade country club for leaving other wealthy people behind is inconsistent with stifling a critical voice against your own company retreating from every other strata of Nashvillian for Belle Meade without the aid of double standards. And starting off the new Belle Meade run with "The Help", a movie about white housewives and their black domestic workers seems at once a further twist and startlingly poetic.

Metro Parks did not respond when journos asked them about the move, which does not look good for them either. They do not seem exactly out in front of this story. What is worse, however, is the perception that they have no control over functions at their more urban public parks even in predominantly white West Nashville.

The move from white West End to the even whiter exurbs smacks of white flight. It also betrays a false sense of security that gangs are only an urban problem easily solved by a more suburbanized setting. As if youth gangs do not have cars. As if youth gangs have not been expanding in suburbia for the past 40 years. So, maybe Metro Parks hopes that the Belle Meade PD can be more effective at walling out gang activity than their own rangers and Metro Police have been securing parks. We also should not ignore the cynical possibility that this may be a strategy for the parks department to save money on security in a lean budget year.

Whatever the reason, it does not look good, and I wholeheartedly agree with those have observed on Twitter today that it may indicate tacit racism and classicism on the part of the newspaper and Metro government.

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