Please Stop Calling it the Bad Part of Town

just hanging out in the "bad" section of town
just kidding, this was in Philly, in a very boogie part of town

We were rehashing weekend festivities at work yesterday, and when I told someone we saw some friends in Jamaica Plain he cocked his head and repeated "Jamaica Plain?" He looked at me like he was trying to remember something; "Jamaica Plain is bad neighborhood, no?" 

English is his second language, and let me apologize for making him sound like every terrible accented foreigner, ending all their sentences with "yes?"or "no?" Because I don't fault my colleague. He's still relatively new to the Boston area, to this country even, and can only base his opinions on what others have told him, not firsthand experience. 

Comments like that really grind my gears. I can't stand when people slander an area they've never been or know nothing about based solely on its reputation. It's a subject that hits close to home, as I grew up in a less than savory part of town. Actually, the neighborhood I grew up in, in Syracuse, situated at the bottom of Tipp Hill, the predominantly Irish section of town, and Solvay, a small suburb of the city, was a great place to live. But because it filtered into the Fowler school district, the worst of the four city schools, that's all it took for outsiders to write it off. 

When I first moved to Boston, I looked at apartments in Cambridge, Somerville, Brighton. I ended up in Dorchester, in the sunny second floor unit of a three family house, on a wide street with ample parking about a ten minute walk to the train. My roommates were another white girl and a Haitian girl who worked together at a nonprofit in our neighborhood. I didn't know Dorchester had a negative reputation until I told people where I lived.

You live where?

What's a nice girl like you living there?

You shouldn't walk home from the train by yourself.

You should always carry pepper spray.

Aren't you scared to live there?

Living in an area that's the "bad" part of town has never been a problem for me. I don't listen  to or repeat stereotypes about an area until I visit it for myself. What I found living in Dorchester was a great community. I lived near a library, a pharmacy, a post office and the train station, all city living requirements. Rent was cheap, I guess because the neighborhood was so "bad," which suited me just fine. Never once did I feel unsafe, but I did sometimes parlay my situation into a ride home from the train station from the cops who would park there; in the middle of winter I would play that scared white girl card, you bet your ass I would. 

What makes an area the bad part of town? The fact that black people live there? That there's more than one language being spoken? That residents live at or below the poverty line? Honestly, when you talk about an area as being the "bad" part or how you wouldn't go there after dark, I'm not judging that neighborhood, I'm judging you. You're being shallow and ignorant and perpetuating stereotypes. 

Anyone who's lived in cities knows there's a dicey section of town. Act like you belong and people generally don't bother you; it's common sense. 

As for my colleague, I set him straight and told him JP was really nice. My friends condo there is gorgeous and right across the street from a bike shop, which says all you need to know about the neighborhood. We were out walking their dog and they mentioned the building on the corner had available units starting around 800k. If that's the going rate for the bad part of town, I don't even want to know what it costs to live in the good part.