Do I live in the “Hood?” I’m not sure. And what exactly is the “Hood” anyway?
For years I’ve been trying to answer this question, yet the answer has eluded me. I need to know! I have my suspicions, but I need facts; the cold, hard facts!
Jonathan, my teen son, often comments that we live in the Hood. Note: when Jonathan, our resident Home Boy, says that we live in the Hood we don’t take him seriously, especially seeing how when he was younger his number one aspiration was to buy a pit bull and move into the projects (public housing) – possibly with a girlfriend. (Yes, we do a lot of praying for this one!)
This is a kid who used to romanticize about thug life. Years ago, every picture he took looked like this one to the left (he’s bottom, center).
Then, when he became too old to pull off the juvenile “bad-boy” pose, he graduated to the “I’m such a stud” pose he’s donning below with his dad and grandpa.–
Granted, he was a young lad when he made his pit bull/project statement, and I believe his aspirations have since changed, but clearly you can see where I’m coming from. You simply pay his “Hood” comments no mind.
One day, Jonathan kept pushing this notion: that we live in the Hood. So, I decided to allow his good friend, Carrell, to weigh in on the matter and settle it once and for all. Carrell was raised in a good home with middle class values and maintains no affinity for Hood life so, I knew I could depend on him to set the record straight.
“Carrell,” I said, “Do we live in the Hood?” I was certain that he would back me up. “Yes, Aunt Tiff, we do,” he replied. “Oh, cut it out!” I told him. “What on earth could possible make you think that?”
“Well, if we leave our bikes in front of the house while we run upstairs – they are stolen.” (Really, Sherlock? We live on a Freeway for crying out loud! Most things would disappear; my plants included!) He offered another reason to support his answer, which I can’t remember at the moment, but still, whatever the Hood is, I doubt I live in it.
When I think about what it means to live in the Hood, movies like Boys in the Hood come to mind: A 1991 “hood” film by John Singleton, starring Ice Cube and a several other notable actors. The film depicts life in poor South Central (now South) Los Angeles, California. Another popular movie in the Hood genre was Menace II Society.
Hood films primarily feature certain aspects of African American life, including hip hop music, street gangs, racial discrimination, poverty, and the problems of young black men coming of age or struggling in a predominantly white society.
In contrast, I live in a community of residential, two parent homes. There are no gun fights in the streets. No one is being stabbed. No gangs to boot as far as I know, no turf wars or drug rings. People go to work and come home and children play in the streets. The biggest menacing condition in my neighborhood is that some of my neighbors play their music too loudly. (Yes, you know who you are!)
Furthermore, the only coming of age struggle Jonathan is having is negotiating a later curfew with Hubby because at present, he has none. This is because he gets permission to go somewhere specific, permission is granted (possibly) after we confirm and cross check details with other parents, and then he returns home, to our nest. His activities are supervised and chaperoned (though this is becoming less and less the case since he is almost 17 now).
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not all peaches and cream where we live; our neighborhood (Canarsie) has its share of problems, but I’d say they are more societal in nature and stem from basic human depravity and are not unique to or concentrated in our community. Yes, we’ve had bikes stolen, but there were bikes stolen in the community I grew up in and I did not live in the Hood. Yes, my son has regrettably been jumped by several guys, but that could very well happen in, say, Beverly Hills?
Do I live in the Hood? Let’s consider this point by point. I decided to do some heavy-duty, scholarly research on the topic so, I surfed the net to get a few definitions of what it means to live in a “hood” and I’ve listed them below. I shall write “Affirmative” by the statement if it is true of my community or “Negative” if it is not:
- The word “hood” is essentially the slang alternative for neighborhood. (Affirmative. I live in a neighborhood.)
- However, “hood” now brings to mind a poverty-stricken area that is within the confines of an urban area. (Negative. My neighborhood is not poverty-stricken.)
- A “hood,” also known as a ghetto, is usually considered to be a slum, where inhabitants live in squalid conditions and face high crime rates, poverty, illiteracy and significant unemployment. (Negative. My community is not experiencing these factors in significant numbers.)
The Nay’s have it! I do not live in the Hood; atleast not the Hood John is referencing. (Momma will get you some klenex to wipe your eyes, Son.)
From the Mouth of Babes: Long before I did my fancy scientific poll above I overheard a conversation which settled the matter for me. Riding home on the train, I overheard a young girl (about 18-years-old) say to another girl: “He thinks he’s from the Hood because he lives in Canarsie. Canarsie aint no Hood! People from Canarsie be frontin, yo. They think Canarsie’s the Hood, but it aint, cause it’s… Canarsie.” I knew it! John can keep dreaming.
Perhaps John thinks we live in the Hood because our neighborhood is predominately Black and/or because we live in an urban center. If this is the case we have Hollywood to thank for that. I mean, when’s the last time you’ve seen a film about poor, misguided White youth who live in rural ghettos or trailer parks? I’ve never seen one, yet, this population does exist. Now, don’t get me wrong – everyone’s story has a right to be told and the “hood” genre is no exception, yet I believe that but because Hood films are wildly popular and there images have been deeply embedded and “normed” in the American psyche, that some of our young Black men (and women) are having a hard time differentiating between the Hood and their own environment.
In short, “Black” and “urban” does not equal the Hood any more than “White” and “rural” (or even suburban) equals an affluent neighborhood. Regardless, I’m going to have to work on our kid’s perception of where we live (but first I have to bar the door and duck – bullets are flyin’, Yo!).
Jenny Fitzsimmons says
Lots of great posts since I last read! I remember when I went to college and encountered a lot of (white) kids who believed that they too grew up in the Hood…and I thought, really? There are “hoods” in Portland, Oregon? I think their perceptions of their own (sub)urban neighborhoods were as much influenced by the Hood film genre as any reality that might have been around them. What I wonder is, why does it appeal so much to people outside of that environment to want to imagine that they are in it? Why do boys want to be cowboys, pirates, and gangsters? As opposed to being ranchers, sailors, or police officers (similar but less romanticized professions)? Why would anyone want to actually be in a “slum, where inhabitants live in squalid conditions and face high crime rates, poverty, illiteracy and significant unemployment” if they have the good fortune not to be? I think maybe some of us who’ve had it pretty easy wish not for those conditions exactly, but a real challenge that puts all of our resources as a human being to work. Not knowing how to find that, we idolize those who involuntarily have found themselves in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. To relate to your earlier post, there was a time when proselytizing could get you killed and there were many martyrs. Now, proselytizing might result in being socially ostracized by some people but the consequences are hardly deadly or dangerous. If it was, you might find some of your Home Boys proselytizing on the street instead of wearing hoodies and walking pitbulls.
Also, what a great a point about the lack of genre for white youth who live in rural ghettos or trailer parks. I have a friend who writes primarily in this genre and has little success getting published, in part because editors don’t believe there is a market for that kind of story.
Oh my, I just googled “white youth who live in rural ghettos or trailer parks” to see if any movies came up. No movies came up but…this blog did! #3!
Oh my! Your response is so funny! I just laughed out loud reading it! Hoods in Portland? I guess an affinity for Hood life is not unique to Black kids.
Cowboys, pirates, and gangsters vs. ranchers, sailors, or police officers – great association! And your comment about Home Boys proselytizing on the street wearing hoodies and walking pit bulls – priceless! (I hope that’s my John one day – minus the pit bull!)