A Tale of Two Shootings on Social Media

Someone got shot in the face around the corner from my apartment around 5:15 pm on Wednesday. I walked outside a few minutes later and encountered thirty cops who had shut down the street to collect evidence, like the empty shell casings nearby.

Twitter serves as the best source for breaking news citizen journalism, but only two people had Tweeted about the shooting. Neither provided much info. @PremierPolitics got the details wrong (according to brief news reports, only one person got shot – not three) and @DignaUrena posted a few photos of police on the scene.   

Five days later, these two tweets remain the only human-generated posts about the shooting, which occurred during evening rush hour on a crowded block (there were a few tweets from bots that post police scanner activity). On Friday, NYPD returned to shut down the street - this time to film the show Bull. Life goes on. Events, even really shocking ones, are wiped away and papered over.

Contrast the social media indifference to the public response to a shooting two days earlier near the corner of Greenpoint Ave. and McGuiness Blvd. in Greenpoint. Well before police and the media determined that the shooter was an ex-cop (a detail that definitely does make for a juicy story), Brooklyn Twitter lit up with photos and information. Here's a sample:

While trying to research the Greenpoint shooting immediately afterward, a friend who lives nearby encountered several other killings that received very little attention aside from a two-paragraph blurb on the News12 Brooklyn. What makes some shootings grab our attention while others fade away – disregarded or, unfortunately, accepted as a fact of life in poor urban neighborhoods of color? 

The amount of attention paid to a specific gun violence episode in New York City seems directly correlated to the amount of gentrification in the area surrounding the shooting. Greenpoint is white, hipster and thoroughly gentrified. Rampant redevelopment and displacement have hit Bushwick hard, but the eastern part still maintains much of its past identity as a neighborhood populated by low-income people of color. Gunshots out here still seem to be shrugged off as a "same old Bushwick" phenomenon, but gun violence is not a natural occurrence and we shouldn't accept it anywhere. 

Electioneering Guide

When I go forwards, you go backwards / And somewhere we will meet

A week ago, Martin Malavé Dilan campaign workers flooded the streets, occupying every corner of Bushwick that falls within the 18th Senate District. I biked to work at about 8 am and immediately encountered a young man with neck tats singing, bopping around and passing out Dilan palm cards to passersby. I stopped at the light next to him and we exchanged what's ups. He extended a card to me, but I didn't have pockets. He smiled and went back to waltzing in place. 

Over on Central Ave, a crew of 3 campaign workers stood so close to the polling place at a nearby school that I had to Google electioneering laws in New York City:

Electioneering is prohibited within 100 feet of the polling site entrance. Electioneering includes:

  • Distributing, wearing, or carrying political literature, posters, banners, or buttons.
  • Soliciting votes.

I imagine the campaign went out the night before with some chalk and a few yardsticks to measure a hundred feet from the door. Then they marked a little X on the pavement at 101 and said 'there you go. stand here." 

When I got to the polling place, two poll workers chatted with the only other voter in there about campaign law leading up to the presidential election:

"So let me ask you this: If you walked in here with a Hillary Clinton t-shirt on, would that be illegal?" A worker asked. 

The voter pondered the riddle then responded: "Not unless the shirt said 'Vote for Hillary Clinton.'" 

That's a bingo.

Good civics lesson. 

Later in the day, I glimpsed my first Debbie Medina campaign worker near Irving Square Park. She stood next to a sandwich board plastered with Medina stickers. A handful of Dilan workers stood on either side with their own signs. A minivan pulled in front of the Medina sign and blocked the view from drivers on Knickerbocker Ave. 

Dilan won ~55% to ~38%.

Gentrifier Deniers

We know we're insufferable.

We know our behaviors alienate and displace long-time community residents.

We know we're trying to simulate authenticity in a sanitized faux-bohemia. Thus, we know we are pawns of wealthy developers.

We know we are strangers in a strange land acting like we own it. 

I think that's why we are so reluctant to acknowledge our role in destructive gentrification. Or why we compete at the "Who's Lived Here Longer" Game and the "Here's How the Neighborhood Has Changed Since I Moved Here" Trivia Contest. We're proving we have some roots. And We've seen some things.

I can comfortably consider myself one dripdripdroplet in a gentrification flood that drowns neighborhoods. I'm only one droplet! You know, if I evaporated, there'd be a thousand other white, upwardly mobile young droplets with parents who could cosign for this apartment very eager to leak in here.

It feels so good to deny personal responsibility like that.

But really, people like me and the other droplets need to acknowledge our erosive behaviors and fight to sandbag the existing community -- to protect low-income residents from displacement. We can't just blame the market or systems right now. We have to stand up for affordable housing development, new mixed-income buildings, low-interest loans to local home-owners, legal assistance to those facing eviction, government-backed housing vouchers, incentives for landlords who accept housing vouchers and prosecution of the nefarious slumlords who coerce lower-income tenants out.

Let the droplets collect in a reflecting pool so we can look at own behaviors.