Leave Ghetto Ways Behind

Mike Seate, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Feb. 22

If and when you get into that end zone, act like you’ve been there a thousand times before—songwriter Gordon Downie

The lyrics of that song came to mind after reading of a multiple shooting over the weekend in Penn Hills. With another multiple shooting in Penn Hills a month ago and 14 shootings in this once-quiet eastern suburb since January of 2004, this isn’t exactly rare.

But what makes the growing homicide rate in Penn Hills so notable is just who is doing the shooting. Most of the shooters in recent events have been African-Americans, a group who, a good decade or two ago, barely were visible in the area.

Since 1990, the black population of Penn Hills has doubled from 13 percent to 24 percent, according to the 2000 Census. The rate of aggravated assaults and homicides using firearms has escalated slowly over the past few years, police say.

It’s as if black Pittsburghers have finally made enough advancements to move away from inner-city ghettoes, but some of us flatly refuse to leave our ghetto ways behind when we reach the ‘burbs.

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A study conducted last year under the auspices of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services found definite links between certain city neighborhoods—the Hill District and Homewood, for example—and shootings in Penn Hills. Folks seem to be moving to the suburbs and carrying their neighborhood beefs, grudges and rivalries along with them like old lawn furniture.

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