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I read with great interest Jason Cherkis’ piece about the Bennett family and the dynamics in that particular neighborhood (“The Stoop at 1701 Euclid,”12/3/04). It was an outstanding piece of writing.
If I may make one suggestion about his excellent story, however: I would have liked to have known the race of the speaker who made the the following comment: “You’ve got 10 kids running down the sidewalk screaming…[a]nd anywhere between eight to 12 adults yelling. A certain part of the African-American population communicate with their children by screaming. If you try to talk to them in a normal tone of voice, they don’t understand it.”
Certainly, these remarks were charged, which is obviously why the “one Euclid neighbor” requested anonymity. But if readers had at least known whether this speaker was white, let’s suppose, then we could have better understood the racism that (still) exists in that community. Had we understood the speaker to be black, say, we could have gotten a better glimpse of the class strife that exists between African-Americans with class privilege and those without it. Because we do not know the person’s race, readers are left unsure of which dynamic—classism or racism, or both—is at play in this comment.
Indeed, the general rule in most newsrooms is to omit a person’s race unless it’s pertinent to the story. This is one case where racial identification is pertinent.