Opinion

The recent shutdowns of several black community events reinforce the racial double standard and political hypocrisy.


Can politicians do more to stop events in black neighborhoods being canceled for safety reasons? / Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto

As Philadelphia responds to its current gun violence crisis, I notice that black neighborhoods are being penalized the most in the name of “safety.”

Several community gatherings were held in predominantly black areas of the city are cancelled because of the heightened rhetoric surrounding the recent shootings. The annual Unity Block Community Party was cut in South Philly, as they were WestFest in West Philly and to Councilor Cindy Bass Summer Event Series in the northwest. Organizers of these events said the increase in gun violence makes it difficult for them to ensure the safety of those attending these public gatherings.

“With the issues going on in that area as well as the whole city, we just didn’t have confidence that we were going to be able to keep people safe at the event,” Bass told the media in closing out his series.

I call bullshit.

Big black community events (like Juneteenth festivals) went well earlier this summer, so why are we canceling similar events now? The politicians who just increased the police budget they should have the power and resources to support safer outdoor gatherings in their neighborhoods.

The fact that our leaders don’t think a police increase is enough gives people like me who believe we are overfunding our police more fodder. For example, a spokesperson from Bass’s office was very curt and vague with me when I tried to ask for more details about what could be done to save that office’s community series. In short, I was told to read public letter that Bass had posted online detailing her concerns – but that letter made no mention of attempts to increase security. I think elected officials should do more — like work to waive security fees and coordinate directly with organizers — to keep these events afloat.

After all, despite an increase in fire rhetoric (including opinion articles calling the return of stop-and-frisk and TV appearances promoting access status), politicians still find ways to keep their own events on the calendar.

Last Thursday, Councilman Curtis Jones held his annual white underwear fundraiser in his district, with several politicians, community leaders and politicians in attendance. The packed public event (with over 100 attendees) took place without a single bullet being fired. Councilor Katherine Gilmore Richardson looks like she had a good time last week she hosted dozens of her sorority sisters and friends at a lively outdoor public gathering at Mann. Again, no deaths were reported – as with many of the big public events this summer, including Odunde, Pride, Roots Picnic and Roe v. Wade protests. At this point, it appears that the South Street and Parkway shootings are outliers, given that no other massive summer event has had similar incidents.

If elected officials feel comfortable hosting and attending large public gatherings in our city, they should fight to keep these events from being shut down in their districts. If the crisis is as out of control as they suggested, they should set a better example by not turning out as well. Otherwise, they should strive to ensure that the community can experience the same joy as them. Research has shown that media coverage of gun violence (which provides a disproportionate attention to less common circumstances and victims) it does not reflect reality; politicians reinforce this problem behavior with their total-doom-and-gloom-with-no-boom approach.

Such double standards continue the narrative of two different Philadelphias: one that feels restrictive to black neighborhoods and one that feels open and expansive to those who are white and/or have power. The recent 4th of July shooting incident at the Parkway did not result in the city canceling future events in the that area. Oval XP and Made In America will still be held this summer on the Parkway. As It has it led to the cancellation of events in black neighborhoods.

Translation: If you live in a predominantly white neighborhood, your summer won’t be canceled because of gun violence. Most likely everyone else’s will.

If politicians think that ending community gatherings such as block parties, large barbecues and outdoor concerts is in the best interest of their constituents, they should reconsider. Lack of community engagement is part of the reason gun violence continues to worsen. Throwing up his hands and not finding better ways (such as emphasizing the need for resources and services more than fixating on public policy) to protect and prioritize their constituents who need recreation – especially because they’ve dealt with the trauma of gun violence – the elect let the bad guys win.

For all the warning in Kenney’s remarks after the July 4th shooting, such a defeatist approach to the issue is no better.

By philcp

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