a community story

Fun facts about my apartment complex:

  • It's a nonprofit. A lot of their actions, I know from the other side of the table. Their community-building exercises are transparently an attempt to decrease crime within the building. [community volunteers chosen by staff and they get special keys and stuff]
  • It's a tough job, and I can tell because there's a lot of turnover. I really like the current staff, though (actually, I liked all the staff, but they had variable levels of competency ). One of the staff members had a hardass bootstrappy approach to the lower-income tenants in the building, and it almost seemed justifying given her experience and success.
  • It may be gentifying. I started seeing more and more cute young people in the building. A black dude moved in across the hall from me. I met a cute black girl on the stairs that I'd never seen before. I gave a Puerto Rican boy advice on moving into the area. One day I saw a student-looking white boy in the building, and I thought it won't be long now.
  • I got them a card recognizing their hard work because I could. Unfortunately (and unbeknownst to me), this was shortly after a body was found in the building. Oops.
  • I was being sexually harassed by one of the top community members, although I didn't realize at first, because I was good at deflecting it and putting my foot down. But when he came to my door with a rumor of me being male... Shoot, these facts aren't fun anymore, aren they? Oopsy!

The harassment is fascinating to me because it was basically my worst fear. It happened for the reasons I expected it to happen, reasons that could happen to anyone.

  1. TIME IS CAPITAL: I was too stressed/overbooked busy to be part of "the community" whereas he was retired with the time to clean the stairwells in the middle of the workday. So he was trusted and I was not.
  2.  AGE IS CAPITAL: I had only been in "the community" for a year or so, whereas he'd been there for who-knows-how-long.

Recently, I've been coming to terms that this is one of my greatest fears: people with greater social capital using it to dominate me. I feel like this colors my experience with community, especially my hatred of call-out culture. 

I see a lot of advocates talk about centering those most in need, but I wonder what it looks like to center the homeless and not the community organizing celebrities. Some organizers I have met (My gratitude will never wane towards a certain CEO who took time out of her day to speak with me at Sammy's Eatery.) treat everyone as equally valuable, but sometimes I see people positioned as The Voice for something and it scares me. Landing on their wrong side due to my ignorance or missteps scares me. The replication of hero worship scares me.