Last week Linus heard me discussing a murder that happened a couple blocks away from our house. Later, I attempted to reassure him that this was not something he needed to worry much about, that they had caught the guy who they think did it, that the two guys knew each other, and so on. This, of course, was completely unnecessary, as Linus seemed completely unfazed by the murder. However, I didn’t want him to think that walking around our neighborhood was a dangerous thing to do, because it’s not, and I don’t want him or Lily to live in fear unnecessarily.
In the course of attempting to do this I also said that what happened was very unusual, because violent crime doesn’t happen much in our part of town. He stopped me mid-sentence and asked, “What do you mean when you say ‘our part of town'”?
I said, “Uhhh…”, and stalled a bit while trying to figure how I was going to explain to a near 8 year old how it was that people in some parts of town never hear gunshots, and other parts hear them every night, and why sometimes those neighborhoods can only be a couple miles apart. I also paused to play my words over in my head a couples times, for some reason suddenly very conscious about using a phrase like “our part of town” so casually. But then I wrestled White Guilt to the ground and moved forward, because after all, everybody lives in “a part of town”.
I think the basic message I got out was that poverty really sucks and when people are poor, there are a lot of different kinds of violence that can come into their lives.
Obviously there’s more to it than that, but I can’t be expected to explain the cycle of poverty and murder rate correlations while sitting in the parking lot at Petco.