Monday, March 26, 2007

Racist Graffiti on My Storefront

In the fall of 2000, a few months after we opened the storefront, racial graffiti was found on 15 different stores on Fulton Street in Fort Greene, including Indigo. We were not the worst damaged — a store down the street had significant damage — but I must admit that it hurt me deeply.

See the other photos

All day long I found myself thinking about the black merchants of old who were hanged (lynched) for having successful businesses that competed with white-owned stores. This was not the case for our area though. This had more to do with gentrification.

Racism is about money. Who has it. Who wants it. What they are willing to do to get it and keep it.

What surprised me was the reaction of the other merchants to this incident. They wanted to hush it up. Hurry up and clean everything. They didn't want to draw bad attention to our area. This is why there wasn't really any news coverage of this incident. I thought they were crazy!

I wanted to call every news outlet in town. If this had happened in a Jewish neighborhood, that's what they would have done. It felt like people were ashamed. They took this nasty treatment with the attitude "this is just what happens sometimes." This may be true but we don't have to take it.

I have no doubt that this act of vandalism was done by kids — maybe teenagers, possibly college students. I will never know for sure, since the police did very little (translation: nothing). I think the kids were acting out what they saw adults doing. On one window they wrote, "Niggers we are taking our neighborhood back." The large institutions in the Fort Greene area were (and still are) busily dividing up and planning the area for their exclusive use. It seemed that once the neighborhood got nice enough for "regular" white folks to live in, it was time for the blacks to go. Look at Fort Greene now and tell me I'm wrong.

All of us merchants on the street were feeling pressure because of the changing demographics and the New York economy. Our local city councilman was trying to do something to help us. Sadly, he was gunned down in City Hall in broad daylight. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

We found that we had to close down our store in the end (about three years later), but I'm finding the Internet to be a much happier place to be. I can say what I want, put together a selection of books that I like, and not be hindered by local tastes. And best of all, I can stay out of the nasty local politics.


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