It’s a phrase I often use to describe myself. Some of it is a push back against the often unfounded assumptions about Staten Island being nothing more than a cultural backwater of New York City and some of it is an actual appreciation of a borough that has a lot of offer. It’s something we’ve all encountered through four years of college and beyond- “oh, Staten Island” with a knowing intonation. Or the variant “is that the same as long island?” My strategy for responding to these inquires/assumptions has vacillated between playing upon the person true ignorance of New York City, asking them where they are from or just asking them what about Staten Island they do know that leads them to dislike it. Despite my (and likely our) best efforts of defense, there is one thing that is always indefensible: this Island’s depressing tendency towards racial strife. Sometimes we look like Brooklyn of forty years ago- cultural enclaves all suspicious of one another (gentrification has done its work there, less of a problem now). So, it is with great dismay that I write this post. In the wake of the election on Tuesday, the only act of violence directly associated with Obama’s election in New York City occurred in the least populous borough:
The Curtis High School student and Liberian immigrant said he was about a block away from his Pine Place home when a car full of white men pulled over and yelled “Obama.”
Kamara didn’t respond, and said he was then jumped. The teen suffered head wounds that had to be stapled closed by doctors.
At first, I was hesitant post about this because there is the very real possibility that the victim was lying (see: crazy McCain girl) and so a polemic against racists in Staten Island may in retrospect look silly if the guy turned out to be full of shit. I realize the victim may still be found to be lying, but I am willing to take the risk now that the police and the U.S. Attorney’s office have begun treating it as a hate crime. All I want to say about this (and I’ve said a lot of nothing on the way) is that sometimes I truly find myself embarrassed by this borough. We’re only part of NYC dumb enough to have voted for McCain and we happen (pure coincidence, I’m sure) to be the only borough where the Obama victory was met by white-on-black racial violence. What a backward place.