Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My response to the Mercer County Free Press Article


You are absolutely correct.  You are NOT a professor.  Nor are you a good "reporter".  Your article didn't amuse anyone or make any point, other than you are exactly how you described yourself... a non-Nobel prize winner "writer".  

I can't help but be offended at the lop-sided misconception and presentation of your article that was presented in the Mercer County Free Press recently.  Because of the many inaccuracies in your poorly researched article, I feel compelled to enlighten you on a few key points.

We are not all in poverty.
It's impossible to imply to that everyone who resides in the City of Farrell lives in poverty.  According to the 2010 Census (www.census.gov <--use that link to research your next article) 85% of Farrell residents have a high school diploma or higher.  Keep in mind, this number is only counting people ages 25 and up.  The average college graduate is 22 years old, therefore their numbers aren't being counted.  There is still an older population in the city that are immigrants and came up during the heyday of the steel mills.  During this heyday, it was perfectly acceptable to drop out of school, go down the hill, and work in the steel mills.  These residents are probably included in the 15%.  Eighty-five percent, compared to 82.1% of Reynolds residents. (http://www.city-data.com). The average persons per household is 2.4 people and median income for residents in the City of Farrell is roughly $30,000/year.  The mean income is around $39,000/year.  The per capita income rate is $17,000/year or so.  So if there's approximately 2 people living in one household, and let's say that that household income is $17,000/year, that still doesn't meet the 2014 Federal Poverty Guideline of $15,730 for a two person household.  Now this is a blanket statement sort of.  I realize that there are some who do live in poverty in this city, but there's a lot more of us who don't and never did. 

Our children are not "at-risk"
Exactly what are our children "at-risk" of? Is it drug dealing? Drug use? Guns and weaponry? Could it be that our children are at-risk of being exposed to racism and negative connotations/stories written about them for no particular reason? The term at-risk is defined as "Being endangered, as from exposure to disease or from a lack of parental or familial guidance and proper health care: efforts to make the vaccine available to at-risk groups of children." 
The last I checked, a lot of children in Farrell aren't suffering from any diseases, receiving a lack of parenting or familial guidance. Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying that there aren't children who've made a mistake or gotten into some trouble. What I'm saying is that EVERY child in this city should not be categorized as at-risk.  Again I say, the only thing that most of our kids are at risk of is people like you who spread stories like yours about their community.  Farrell is a very loving and caring community and I'm proud to say that I'm a resident here.

You felt funny being a white person in Farrell? Imagine how Black people feel being ANYWHERE in Mercer County
Being followed in stores, looked at fearfully, and turned away from jobs are just a tip of the iceberg for minorities in Mercer County.  What a joke! I can tell you this, Black people are probably more accepting of a white person coming, visiting, living in an area that has a high minority population, than white people are accepting of a Black person living in a high non-minority area.  I'm willing to bet that it's much easier for a white person to come live in Farrell than it is for a Black person to go live in Reynolds.  
I remember 14 years ago when my parents bought their new home.  A neighbor came out of his house and said right to my mom and step dad's face "When you guys moved in here, I said There goes the neighborhood". Really?  Prejudgement can only lead to the revelation of a person's lack of knowledge and acceptance of minorities.  For the record, my mom owns a childcare center and has done so for the past 20+ years.  My dad retired from the State of PA 4 years ago and now owns his own business as well.  

Everyone standing on a street corner isn't selling drugs
They're just loitering, sir. Albeit, loitering is against the law, but one is a felony and the other a misdemeanor. #LawSchool2015

People sitting on their porches or stoops aren't afraid of anything  
This city is deeply rooted in southern tradition and culture.  The Sharon Herald ran a story a few years ago about the city's ties to Cheraw, SC.  Many years ago, my grandparents came to Mercer County by way of Cheraw, SC. because my grandfather had gotten work in the steel mill.  They raised 8 children, all high school grads, some college grads, and all went on to continue the middle class lifestyle that my grandparents set up for them.  And as far as people sitting on the porches/stoops because they are afraid of something, well that's just not accurate either.  I know in your article that you likened this trait to Pittsburgh's Hill District, Harlem, NY, and Philadelphia, PA (all MAJOR cities, mind you), but the comparison is like apples and oranges.  You should know that sitting on the front porch is a southern tradition. Can you see the connection?..a city deeply rooted in southern immigration displaying southern traits and traditions.  Oh! the irony!

I was always taught not to stoop to anyone's level when they hurl insults, etc. in my direction.  I've lived in this city my entire life and I've witnessed all kinds of racial comments made towards the residents and students.  In high school, being a part of a top state level volleyball program, we had the opportunity to play in many different areas and school districts.  In the course of my 4 years of playing volleyball for FASD, i can remember being called Black bitches, [housing] project dwellers, poor n*ggers, etc. We were children and these insults were from so-called adults.  All because we put the smack down on their kids' teams.  Don't hate the player, hate the game.  I neglected to mention during my original publishing that Of the 7 seniors on my high school volleyball team, 4 of us graduated with HIGH honors. And ALL of us went on to college.

The media would want everyone to believe that the City of Farrell is some kind of cesspool of crime, delinquency, and uneducated people who sit around all day and do nothing.  It would want you to believe that it is a city of dilapidated buildings that are boarded up or falling in.  The last time I checked, there are buildings like this is every community in Mercer County.  There are very nice areas in Farrell that get overlooked because people are so busy trying to find the negatives in the city.  Had you driven a few blocks south, you would have seen the beautiful new 3-story apartment building that was built last year.  And you would have seen the 10 new single-family homes that were also built last year. I should mention here, that more homes are being planned to be built soon.  But instead you chose to showcase some the oldest buildings in the city.  Some of these building are nearing 80-90 years old.  So of course they would be falling in.  When's the last time you saw anything that was 80 or 90 years old that didn't need structural support? Even humans this age, need some kind of help to hold them up, else they'd succumb also. 

Furthermore, your comparisons are, upon first reading them, very offensive, but upon reading them again, I find them quite amusing.  Amusing to the point where I, and most people in Farrell, and also a few people who don't live in Farrell, can laugh at YOU and your poor portrayal of comparison and contrast.  As a high school Freshman who took a Sophomore English class, I had the pleasure of learning of such (comparison and contrast and properly writing them) in greater detail while in Mr. R's classroom.  

And finally, the mere fact that you have an Editor's position in a publication, shows that White-privilege more than likely played a significant part in your appointment into this position.  Here's another link for you to research "white privilege" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_privilege)  ...always check your facts before you publish them.

And while I do not consider myself a writer, nor an expert, I'm willing to believe that my upbringing, sense of community pride, and my BA and MA have played a significant part in my ability to respond to your "article" so eloquently. I hope to get my point across to you by addressing your stereotypical perceptions of people and situations that you know nothing about first hand.  I'm just a Black woman who has 2 college degrees and is preparing to enter Law School next fall... who just so happens to live in Farrell, PA. 

Now I understand that my response may seem lopsided or even one-sided.  This is because I DELIBERATELY wrote it to be so.  I read your article quite a few times and I see how you [attempted] to address racism in your words.  I think that your approach needs work, but I can [almost] see where you were going with this.  My suggestion would be to not make a city look so bad while attempting to make another look better in your effort to address racism in Mercer County, PA.  If you're going to attempt to compare apples and oranges, at least be a fruit farmer.