Tag: Starbucks

It’s the dogs that are our connectors!

An unusual finding from a recent survey.

As Yves says: “Yves here. Wow, this is a finding I would never have expected. Shows what I know about dogs, or more accurately, dog owners.

She was commenting on a recent post published on Naked Capitalism.

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How Dogs Help Keep Multiracial Neighborhoods Socially Segregated

Posted on May 24, 2019
By Yves Smith
By Sarah Mayorga-Gallo, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts Boston. Originally published at
The Conversation

Cities in the United States are getting less segregated and, according to a recent national survey, most Americans value the country’s racial diversity.

But the demographic integration of a neighborhood doesn’t necessarily mean that neighbors of different races are socializing together.

Diverse urban areas remain socially segregated in part because white gentrifiers and long-time residents have differing economic interests. And the racial hierarchies of the United States are simply not erased when black and white people share the same space.

White residents of multicultural areas tend to overlook inequality in their neighborhoods, studies show. That further reinforces racial barriers.

My sociological research in one such multicultural neighborhood identifies a more surprising vehicle of racial segregation: dogs.

‘A Very Doggie Neighborhood’

I spent 18 months studying Creekridge Park, a diverse and mixed-income area of Durham, North Carolina, to understand how black, white and Latino residents interacted with each other. Between 2009 and 2011, I interviewed 63 residents, attended neighborhood events and conducted a household survey.

I learned that white, black and Latino residents led rather separate social lives in Creekridge Park. Eighty-six percent of white people said their closest friends were white, and 70% of black residents surveyed reported that their best friends were black.

One black resident lamented that neighbors weren’t as “friendly as I had hoped and thought that they would be – or at least, this image I had in my head of what ‘friendly’ would be like.”

White, black and Latino people in Creekridge Park even had different experiences with something as seemingly innocuous as pet ownership.

Many white residents described friendships growing as a result of walking their dogs around the neighborhood, with chance encounters on the sidewalk turning into baseball games, dinners and even vacations together.

“It’s the dogs that are our connectors,” said Tammy, a white homeowner in her fifties. “That’s how a lot of us have gotten to know each other.”

Such positive interactions did not necessarily happen across racial boundaries. More often, I found, dogs reinforced boundaries.

When Jerry, a black homeowner in his sixties, stopped to chat with some dog-owning customers, who were white, in the outdoor seating area of a neighborhood bakery, the staff asked him to leave.

“I owned some dogs like that at one particular time. And I was just speaking to them. All of a sudden, I’m a panhandler,” Jerry said, incredulous and hurt.

Jerry is a black disabled veteran who was wearing his old army uniform that day. He figures they thought he was begging for money.

The dogs didn’t create the interracial boundaries at the bakery, which caters to a primarily white, middle-class clientele. In fact, the dogs presented an avenue to connect black and white neighbors. But they gave bakery staff a reason to intervene, to maintain interracial boundaries.

Neighborhood Watch

The treatment of dogs in Creekridge Park also divided neighbors of different races.

Tammy, the same resident who said dogs served as “connectors” in the neighborhood, disliked that her Latino neighbors wouldn’t let their dog into the house, leaving her tied up in the backyard.

Tethering dogs is a common practice in Durham, NC.

One day, when she heard her neighbor’s dog barking, she decided to monitor their backyard with binoculars, to make sure the dog was OK. When the father spotted her doing her surveillance, Tammy lied. She said she was looking at a different dog.

Tammy was not, however, embarrassed when recounting this story. She felt she was justified in considering the dog’s well-being. She offered the family a bigger dog house and began to take the dog on hour-long walks twice a day. Eventually, she adopted the dog as her own.

Tammy said that she always intervened whenever she saw dogs mistreated in the neighborhood. However, the only examples she shared during our interview involved Latino families.

Latino families are not the only Creekridge Park residents who tied up their dogs. The practice is common enough across Durham that a local group was formed in 2007 to build free dog fences.

Police Come ‘Almost Immediately’

Several white residents of Creekridge Park have even reported their neighbors to the police for suspected animal abuse.

Emma, a white homeowner in her thirties, called the police when she thought her neighbors were involved in dog fighting.

They “came almost immediately,” she said.

Generally, Emma told me, if she knows her neighbors, she will confront them directly about problems she perceives. Otherwise, she prefers to call the police.

Given how segregated friendship networks are in Creekridge Park, this seemingly non-racial distinction between “known” and “unknown” neighbors means that in practice Emma involved police in conflicts only with black and Latino neighbors.

Dogs can connect neighbors – but they can also divide them. Shutterstock

How White People Enforce Their Rules

This white willingness to report non-white neighbors for “unruly” behavior recalls numerous recent incidents nationwide in which white people have called the police on black people for perfectly legal activities.

In July 2018 a white woman in San Francisco threatened an 8-year-old black girl for “illegally selling water without a permit.” A few months before, a white woman dubbed by internet users as “BBQ Becky” called the cops on a black family barbecuing in an Oakland park for using an “unauthorized” charcoal grill.

Other examples of white people using police to enforce their unspoken social norms have occurred at Starbucks, a Yale University dorm and a Texas swimming pool.

In U.S. neighborhoods, middle- and upper-class white residents enjoy a privileged social position by virtue of their race and class. They understand that police, local businesses and government agencies exist to serve them – the same social institutions that often underserve or even target racial minorities.

By drawing arbitrary lines between right and wrong, insider and outsider – even good pet owner and bad – white people like Tammy and BBQ Becky use that power to try to shape diverse neighborhoods into their preferred mold.

As a result of white residents’ focus on their own comfort in diverse places, racial inequality can pervade everyday life – even, my research shows, when walking the dog.

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I have to say that it’s not entirely clear if dog ownership leads to social cohesion or the opposite.

I need to read the article again but what do readers offer.

Passionate involvement!

This is beginning to look like a theme!

Regular followers will be aware that both Monday’s post, The growth of empathy, and Tuesday’s post, Questions without answers, had a common theme. That of “the rising consciousness of all the millions of ordinary people just trying to leave the world in a better place”, as I wrote on Monday, in contrast, even stark contrast, with the blindness, for want of a stronger term, of those charged with governing our societies.

Around 12:45 on Monday I received a note that there was another follower of Learning from Dogs. Here is that note:

dcardiff just started following you at http://learningfromdogs.com. They will receive an email every time you publish a post. Congratulations.

You might want to go see what they’re up to! Perhaps you will like their blog as much as they liked yours!

Like many other bloggers I try and go to whatever blog site that follower has and leave a ‘thank you’ message.

So off I went to Gotta Find a Home.  The blogsite is by Dennis Cardiff and the sub-title of the blog is The plight of the homeless.

Here’s how Dennis introduces his blog:

Throughout the past few years I have come to know many people, now friends, who for various reasons are, or were, homeless. Antonio, slept on a park bench and was beaten, had his teeth kicked out, for no other reason than his choice to sleep outdoors. He is a small, gentle man who has a phobia about enclosed spaces.

Craig, slept on the sidewalk in the freezing cold. I see him every morning and am never sure if, when I lift the corner of his sleeping bag, I will find him dead or alive. Sometimes, he confided, he would prefer never to awake.

Joy is a friend who fell on hard times. She slept behind a dumpster in back of Starbucks. I have seen her with blackened eyes, bruised legs, cracked ribs, cut and swollen lips. I usually see her sitting on the sidewalk ‘panning’ for change.

I can’t do much for these people except to show them love, compassion, an ear to listen, perhaps a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. I would like to do more. To know them is to love them. What has been seen cannot be unseen. I have started to write an account of their daily lives. I intend to turn this into a book and have it published. That is my goal.

I am writing articles and biographies of Joy and other street people. They have been informed that they don’t have to use their real names, that any profits would go back to the homeless and that it could be a vehicle to say whatever they want to the population at large.

Not only does that stir one’s heart and conscience but more so the fact that there are 6,069 followers of Dennis’s blog.

Please, please go along to Gotta Find A Home and embrace what wonderful people like Dennis and countless others are doing in this world. Go and read how the blogsite came about:

My lungs ached, as frost hung in the bitterly cold December morning air, making breathing difficult. I trudged in the falling snow toward Place Bell where I work, in the city’s gray, concrete, office tower canyon. I dodged other pedestrians, also trying to get to work on time, I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against the wall of the library. A snow-covered Buddha wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought,There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day.

In the past I’ve been unemployed, my wife and I were unable to pay our mortgage and other bills, we went through bankruptcy, lost our house, my truck. Being in my fifties, my prospects looked dim. It could have been me, on the sidewalk, in her place.

I’ve been told not to give money to pan handlers because they’ll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, “The woman is probably hungry. Why don’t you ask her if she’d like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?”

That sounded reasonable, so the next day I asked, “Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast, perhaps a coffee?”

“That would be nice,” she replied.

When I brought her a sandwich and coffee she said to me, “Thank you so much, sir. You’re so kind. Bless you.” I truly felt blessed.

This has become a morning routine for the past two and a half years. The woman (I’ll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I’ll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.

Reflect on how when you see a homeless person with so little, how so often they have a dog.

The power of love.
The power of love.

To close, let me tell you more about the photograph.  I saw it on the blogsite Erick’s Odyssey in the following post.

This is how a real man treats his best friend

A friend of mine posted this photo on their Facebook wall. Like most people when they first see it, I was overwhelmed with several emotions.

First of all, I felt a swell of compassion for these two. I don’t even know them, but I was immediately concerned with their wellbeing. I wanted them to be warm and fed, and protected.

Secondly, I was touched with the apparent love and friendship shared by the two, even though they are not even of the same species. I thought, “They may have nothing, but they have each other, so they have everything.” I don’t know by what circumstance this man and this dog came to be together, living on the streets, but I think it is a reflection of the callousness of our society.

Whatever the reason they are homeless, they are an opportunity for us, those who have the necessities of life in abundance, to show kindness and compassion. Remember this the next time you drive by a similar scene in your warm car. Remember that if you were in their shoes, you would want, or even if you would be too ashamed to ‘want,’ you would ‘need’ someone to help you.

Our apathy is what makes us truly destitute.

Yet another example of the power of this new world of interconnectedness and how, ultimately, those connections between all those millions who care will bring about a new caring era!