Take Back Boystown: White vs Right?
- “Boystown was built and created by gay whites with hard earned money years back…Its sad that Boystown has been taken advantage by these f***ing savage monkeys.“
- “They also happen to be very noticeably out of place!! So why are they not questioned and asked to leave by the police is amazing! Check their ID and if they don’t live there ask them to enter an establishment or leave!!! …They travel from all over the city to infest ‘Boystown’ with their ghetto mentality and violet [sic] attitude! Watching that video really has sickened me!!! It is what it is, and they were all Black!”
- Quotes found on the TAKE BACK BOYSTOWN Facebook page, courtesy of Huffington Post.
Despite being a stabbing-victim, Rubin Robinson, a 25 year old black man, recognizes his attack is being used by some as the battle cry (or the red-herring) to target other black youths like himself. According to Robinson’s interview with Chicago Tribune, he plans to stay away from Boystown “for a while,” because, he says, “I know that I won’t be distinguished from the troublemakers.” Captured in his simple statement is a complex reality. Mr. Robinson’s choice to no longer frequent Boystown is not about fear of random bogeymen or “thugs,” but the real fear of some members of the larger gay community, police and inhabitants of Boystown insistence to over-police, control and restrict, indiscriminately, the movement of all black bodies in the area. When you take into account the facts – Rubin’s statement, the explosive Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) meeting, Take Back Boystown campaign, and the countless half-veiled racial epithets littering the conversations – what’s clearly at stake is the ability of black youth – homeless or otherwise – to move freely through neighborhoods regardless of their class, race, gender and non-violent cultural norms.
In the above clip, you see Rubin Robinson being attacked by other black persons on the streets of Boystown.
Let’s be clear, violence is something that has to be curtailed and rooted-out, particularly when it impacts the safety of an entire neighborhood, or when targeted at a specific community of people (e.g., those who frequent the area which includes the inhabitants as well as any other citizens). If you agree with my above statement, I challenge you to argue with my next claim, which is that violence isn’t just someone being randomly attacked; it also includes the ability to use public resources like the police, the alderman, the media and whomever else to assist in the violent removal of “unwanted” people, and to make publicly funded agencies scapegoats. I, by no means, am excusing the dozens of robberies, aggravated assaults, and burglaries that have been documented since April 2011, but in addition to condemning those acts of random individuals, I am denouncing the active persecution of black and brown youth—homeless or otherwise.
Some members of Chicago’s LGBTQ community, certain inhabitants (including some business owners) of Boystown, and certain officers in the 23rd precinct police exert a schizophrenic (read: contradictory) push and pull on black and brown youths—homeless or otherwise—in the area. To understand the schizophrenic nature of what’s going on, think of a yo-yo. Pull—many inhabitants, some lesbian and gay community members and even some police use black and brown youth as sexual toys, amusement, and club entertainers; Push—yet, in the same climax-laced voices, create character-assassinating media-bites, which cast a wide shadow over all black and brown bodies walking the streets of Boystown.
According to Randall Jenson, documentarian of 50Faggots, he worries “about power-dynamics and disparate agendas.” Moreover he expresses how disheartening it was that at the CAPS “that these young people’s voices were not even welcomed, but also actively denied by some,” especially considering the “acidic environment where some of the other gay men and police in that room have actively been perpetrators of physical and sexual violence” against these black and latino youth—homeless or otherwise.
The consequence of this schizophrenic push and pull is that it hinders the life chances of black and brown youths in very real and dire ways: 1) allows for the seedier underbelly (i.e., the victimizers within the gay communities, certain inhabitants of Boystown and their collaborators) to go unpunished; 2) builds a disconnect between the larger community’s ability to see these youth as vulnerable; 3) creates legal ramifications (e.g., tougher laws on loitering, carousing, curfew or non-violent crimes) which further disadvantages these youths; 4) Ultimately these things lead to more crime because actions once thought of as annoying or unsightly would possibly now be deemed criminal (i.e., sagging pants, no hats in bars, hanging out with friends on public streets, and etc).