Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Power Of Symbols

"Kate how am I supposed to take it that there is a used condom in the gutter by the curb?"  In our old neighborhood it meant that we had a problem with prostitution there,  it symbolized some kind of dysfunction in the community. So if I embed that sight of a used condom  with the idea of dysfunction, what logical or illogical conclusion do I make about my new community?
  A few months ago I was talking to my neighbor across the street, an African American woman in her 60's. I asked if her daughter's kid goes to the local school, two blocks to the east. She didnt seem  too enthralled at the concept of me thinking her grandchild going to Lovett School. She said her grandson goes to a very good Luthern school in Forest Park. The public schools around here elicit very strong opinions, if not spoken, they are implied. Sending your child to a local school is embedded with symbols, mostly negative. The conversation somehow veered into her saying that she was planning to move out of the neighborhood, after 22 years. Why i asked why,  she said, " cause used to be you didn't have no cars on the street, it was quiet, we had no problems." she nodded her head over to her neighbors next door to her. I didn't press her to stay or reconsider her opinion; I silently disagreed with her assessment of the block, for my assessment was that what she experiences as discomfort, pales with what I experienced on Keystone, but I get sentiment that when you move to a place where you want quiet, you want cleanliness, when you want peace to live your life with your family, without any challenges to that lifestyle, then perceptions of change or disorder take on a symbolic quality.
   This Tuesday, our community will have a meeting regarding a zoning change to allow a pawnshop called EZ Pawn to come into our community. I don't want to spend time elaborating on the symbols that surface from the prospect of another pawn shop, west of Narragansett, so I will allow you to make your own inferences based on these statements elaborated in the aforementioned book, " Recall my argument (in chapter 6) that shared perceptions of send a culturally meaningful signal about the reputation and confidence in a neighborhood. Recall also that perceptions of disorder were strongly influenced by prior racial/ethnic composition and furthermore that the collectively perceived disorder predicted individual-level perceptions many years later."
 How I navigate my thoughts related to the meanings and symbols I attach to the slippery, red, used condom by the curb and how we collectively navigate the meanings and symbols we attach to the pawnshop matter for the future of this community. Let's navigate better, let's navigate well.

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