All too often, I see fellow students at VCU who shriek and shrug when talking about Richmond beyond Broad and Belvidere Streets.
Why do folks never venture out of this area, you ask? It’s because they claim it to be the ‘sketchy’ or ‘dirty’ area of Richmond. There’s plenty of culture that lies beyond the campus of VCU, whether it be Monroe Park campus or the MCV campus, but few students dare to travel through areas of Richmond that have not been sterilized by academic bleach.
Whether it is First Fridays in the Art District, the South of the James Farmers Market on Southside, the growing number of small businesses in Church Hill or the gorgeous Joseph Bryan Park on the north side of Richmond, there is cultural value beyond the boundaries of campus.
There exists a power in the terms ‘sketchy,’ ‘ghetto,’ ‘hood’ and ‘dirty’ when people refer to certain parts of the city; they imply tones of racial and class violence. When these words enter your daily dialogue, you are actively subordinating a group of people based on the fact that their socioeconomic status is not similar to your own.
You are saying that because they do not act like you, speak like you, dress like you or live next door to your remodeled condo in the Fan, they are less than you. Let me be the first one to tell you: You are not better than others. I hate to break it to you, but if you continue to use such language, you are only displaying characteristics of yourself as being intolerant and ignorant.
While I would love to hear your ramblings regarding your fear of being robbed and assaulted in neighborhoods beyond Broad and Belvidere, let me direct you to Spot Crime, a website where you can log on and view crime in your neighborhood.
It’s interesting to find out that the same violent crimes that occur in Carver, Church Hill and Jackson Ward also occur in the Fan and Museum District where median home prices are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It’s shocking that people who look and act like you can also commit crimes, right?
I’m not telling you to not be aware of your surroundings while walking around the neighborhoods of Richmond, but I do encourage you to understand the meaning and power behind your words.
Develop friendships that are constructed with unity, respect and trust, not ones that are forged through the rejection and demonization of the “other.” Just because a person is not a candidate for a degree from an academic institution does not make them less than you.
VCU continues to attract hoards of students from suburban areas of Virginia who are not conscious of race and class issues. It is time for you as a new resident of this city to make your fellow students aware of the lush culture that the entire city of Richmond has to offer, particularly beyond Broad and Belvidere.