When You “Don’t Belong” in the Neighborhood

We live in the North Shore neighborhood of Milwaukee and we love it. 

It is a very diverse neighborhood.

My girls love being able to walk to the park across the street. Hop on our bikes and hit the Oak Leaf Trail, or just walk around to all the cool places nearby. But there are also times when it’s hard to be “brown in the burbs’.”

There are tons of local buy/sell groups in the area. There was a big spike in crime out here recently (entering homes through unlocked doors, or unlocked cars and package theft) and naturally the topic came up among moms in a group. Everyone was in fear and wondering how they could prevent themselves from becoming the next victim.

One person suggested “call the police anytime you see someone who doesn’t “belong” in your neighborhood.”

This made me uneasy immediately, being one of those people who notoriously doesn’t “belong in the neighborhood.” More comments rolled in. People suggested calling the police if you see cars or people that look “suspicious” without being specific about what that actually meant. How is a “suspicious” look determined? Would my hair, brown skin and old car immediately make me fit the description someone would call the police on?

I spoke up and said that was unfair.

I had gone to pick up things from the resale group and had people stop walking their dogs just to stare at me to make sure I wasn’t up to anything shady. I’ve noticed people stop watering their lawns and stare me down as I drive off. When going on a pick-up, I make sure to walk up to the house flashing my cash so people don’t assume the worst and call the police. I catch myself praying that no one is taking down my plates because my car is older.  

This is a real fear I have going to do pick-ups because of people too willing to call the police with assumptions about people who look different than they do. Other moms in the groups that were African American or had partners of color had experienced it and had similar experiences. We shouldn’t be judged because of our race, how we look or what we drive.

If you find yourself feeling like someone is “out of place in your neighborhood” try starting a conversation, someone up to no good is not looking to have small talk, or even be noticed by you. In general, being quick to listen and be neighborly and slow to jump to conclusions can make all the difference.

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2 Responses to When You “Don’t Belong” in the Neighborhood

  1. Maggie
    Maggie August 19, 2017 at 7:41 am #

    This makes me sad and a wee bit sick. Thank you for the reminder to check our actions. For me, I stop and check out any stranger that I happen to notice come by. Someone coming to rob me is usually least of my worries. Usually it’s “ugh, are they going to try and sell me cable?!” From this end, that means I watch with a “get off my lawn” face not because I don’t like YOU but because of the “no thank you” battle that’s about to ensue.

    That said, I am going to be more aware of my reactions before I know the reason for the visit. Thanks for that.

  2. Annie August 19, 2017 at 10:02 am #

    U are beautiful. Keep speaking your TRUTH and your BEAUTIFUL. U are making a difference.

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