The New York Times spent a lot of time bringing attention to its story about Dasani, a young girl who is “homeless” in that she lives with her parents and family in a homeless shelter.
The article spends a great deal of time describing every aspect of her day, but almost no time talking about her drug addict parents. It does spend a great deal of time blaming Bloomberg and gentrification.
Dasani’s own neighborhood, Fort Greene, is now one of gentrification’s gems. Her family lives in the Auburn Family Residence, a decrepit city-run shelter for the homeless. It is a place where mold creeps up walls and roaches swarm, where feces and vomit plug communal toilets, where sexual predators have roamed and small children stand guard for their single mothers outside filthy showers.
Okay, but who is responsible for this? Is it Bloomberg who is raping women in the showers… or is it the same “poor displaced population” that the New York Times wants us to feel sorry for?
Long before Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio rose to power by denouncing the city’s inequality, children like Dasani were being pushed further into the margins, and not just in New York. Cities across the nation have become flash points of polarization, as one population has bounced back from the recession while another continues to struggle.
Who is doing the pushing?
The New York Times spends a ton of time chronicling every time Dasani blinks. It spends much less time on her parents… for obvious reasons.
Dasani’s circumstances are largely the outcome of parental dysfunction. While nearly one-third of New York’s homeless children are supported by a working adult, her mother and father are unemployed, have a history of arrests and are battling drug addiction.
Wait… but… Bloomberg… gentrification… the 1 percent.
Dasani’s parents are criminals and drug addicts. But it’s Bloomberg’s fault that she lives in a homeless shelter. It’s not that her parents don’t have money… taxpayer money of course.
Suddenly, Supreme leaps into the air. His monthly benefits have arrived, announced by a recording on his prepaid welfare phone. He sets off to reclaim his gold teeth from the pawnshop and buy new boots for the children at Cookie’s, a favored discount store in Fulton Mall. The money will be gone by week’s end.
Supreme and Chanel have been scolded about their lack of financial discipline in countless meetings with the city agencies that monitor the family.
But when that monthly check arrives, Supreme and Chanel do not think about abstractions like “responsibility” and “self-reliance.
Gold teeth. Welfare phone.
Do I even have to go on?
January brings relief, but not because of the new year. It is the start of tax season, when Dasani’s parents — and everyone they seem to know — rush to file for the earned-income tax credit, a kind of bonanza for the poor.
Their tax refunds can bring several thousand dollars, which could be enough to put down a rent deposit and leave the shelter.
But clearly it’s Bloomberg’s fault that they don’t because they aren’t getting an express ticket to a housing project.
Yet Dasani’s trials are not solely of her parents’ making. They are also the result of decisions made a world away, in the marble confines of City Hall. With the economy growing in 2004, the Bloomberg administration adopted sweeping new policies intended to push the homeless to become more self-reliant. They would no longer get priority access to public housing and other programs, but would receive short-term help with rent. Poor people would be empowered, the mayor argued, and homelessness would decline.
But the opposite happened. As rents steadily rose and low-income wages stagnated, chronically poor families like Dasani’s found themselves stuck in a shelter system with fewer exits.
Dasani’s family isn’t the working poor that the housing projects were designed for. They are, as most black people would agree, ghetto trash. People who live in housing projects don’t want them there. The New York Times however insists on pushing violent criminals and junkies into housing projects which will once again turn them into hellholes.
Because the New York Times cares so much about black people…
Chanel’s two unemployed brothers, 22-year-old Josh and 39-year-old Lamont, stay in the dark, musty basement…
A few nights later, the children are roused by shouts and a loud crash. Uncle Josh has punched his hand through a window and is threatening to kill Uncle Lamont.
Josh lunges at his brother with a knife.
Oh please, let’s get these people into a housing project. Stat.
Dasani’s family is not the working poor. They’re trash because they choose to be. Maybe Dasani will get out, maybe she won’t. That’s her decision. Maybe taking her away from her family would be a good thing.
But this isn’t Bloomberg’s fault. It’s not the fault of gentrification. The clan would be just as bad in a housing project or a house. They’re violent drug addicts with no sense of personal responsibility.
Much like a certain white privileged New York Times editor…
I was lonely, but not alone. The house belonged to Anna, my girlfriend and dope dealer, who had two kids of her own and newborn twins by me. One night, Anna was out somewhere, and I was there with the kids. I had a new pipe, clean screens, a fresh blowtorch and the kids were asleep.
On this night — it was near the end — every hit sent out an alarm along my vibrating synapses. If the cops were coming — Any. Minute. Now. — I should be sitting out in front of the house. That way I could tell them that yes, there were drugs and paraphernalia in the house, but no guns. And there were four blameless children. They could put the bracelets on me, and, head bowed, I would solemnly lead them to the drugs, to the needles, to the pipes, to what was left of the money. And then some sweet-faced matrons would magically appear and scoop up those babies and take them to that safe, happy place. I had it all planned out.
I could type — and sometimes write — as fast as the next guy, and I had an insatiable need to know more. My work got noticed, and some of the more unfortunate aspects of the guy who produced it were overlooked. I got jobs, nailed investigative targets and won a few awards.
I became a dealer for the creative community in Minneapolis, selling coke to colleagues, comedians and club kids. I moved grams, eight balls, ounces, quarter pounds — no one trusted me with a kilo for more than a few minutes.
Was any of this stuff the fault of the city or gentrification? I doubt Carr would make that argument. He takes some measure of responsibility for his bad choices. But the New York Times acts like once a crackhead is black, instead of white, he no longer has to be responsible for anything, including his kids.
It’s all Bloomberg’s fault.