Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Perpetuating Stereotypes or Promoting Facts?

I just received the following note from a college-age neighbor who is leaving the neighborhood.

"Ahh, Pomona. So full of memories. The memories of the cop shooting that dude in front of the [house], the guy shot right in the butt in the park across the street (honestly, who does a drive by with a frickin' RIFLE!?) and the memories of the [house] being broken into and burgled. After a year and a half, we are done with this place. So, now we are off to the world of Ragin' Waters and Bill and Ted: San Dimas. As of January 30th, 2009, our new address will be _______."

Everything he says in the note is true. The officer-involved shooting did happen right here, the butt-destined bullet brought the park to the news, and their house was targeted during a burglary. Yet, I find the note's tone entirely irritating. Perhaps the tone is an attempt at humor, or perhaps the writer attempts to affect an edgy "I don't give a hoot" attitude.

In an invite to their house cooling party, the same neighbor wrote: "To celebrate our exodus from the land of shootings, knifings, break-ins and hookers, we are having the last themed party at the [house] before [we] ....make our way to the lovely land of San Dimas. Come dressed up in any way you interpret the theme!" In cases you're wondering, the theme for the party is "I fought the law."

Sure, I understand he feels victimized after a break-in. I get that. But I don't understand the willingness or motivation to rip on the entire community. I still live here. I'm not a hooker (though once I dressed as a one for a college Halloween party -- a regrettable choice); I don't do drugs (well, there are those prescriptions in the medicine cabinet).

How do we draw the line between stereotypes and honest representations? Sweeping generalizations about our community become assertions about neighborhoods, about individual homes, about the people who live and love within those homes. I object.

What worries me most is we're sending out into the broader world someone who has now lived in Pomona and will likely attempt to serve as a witness to all the ills of our city, "the land of shootings," further strengthening the assumptions held by people who resist going south of the 10 or east of the 57. Gee, thanks.


  1. We've got to hire a PR person and get a new image for Pomona. or we can take it into our own towns and invite people over to Pomona: The greatest city on earth!

  2. To me, Pomona has always been a bit paradoxical.
    On one hand, there's now where else in southern California I'd rather be. I hope to die here (later than sooner.)
    On the other hand it is inarguably true that a lot of bad things happen here and someone could probably live an easier life in a place like Claremont. That said, I share your offense when people bad mouth Pomona or sanctimoniously wash their hands of it like your neighbor. If that's how his attitude is going to be, (more eager to tear Pomona down than build it up), then perhaps we're better off to be rid of him.