20 June 2006

"should i be afraid of new haven?"

this is a question i've been asked quite a lot by new yalies, both male and female. i think the answer is no-with-a-caveat-or-two, but i'm impressed at the variety of responses i've heard. everything from "absolutely -- never walk alone, anywhere, anytime" to a flat "nope." like bitch phd, though, i'm struck by how the complex of beliefs and behaviors known as "afraid of new haven" is tied to a whole slew of uncomfortable identity politics. new haven is, first, a specific instance of the general phenomenon in which women are trained to be afraid of various sorts of independence. second and more specifically, the "common sense tips" and information we hear so much about have the consequence, intended or not, of definining yale as against (poor, black) new haven. which means that neighborhoods do not become more integrated with time. which means that many public spaces are deserted at night. which means that these public spaces are then actually much more dangerous. i miss norris square, and the way that (poor, minority) neighborhood policed itself: not through collective avoidance but through socializing on the stoops, in the streets, at the playground.