I went for a long walk the other night at about two in the morning. I started out in the Maspeth section of Queens and ended up in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn. I walked for blocks and blocks along Grand through an area that has been described as desolate and in need of development so that it can merge nicely into the working-class areas of Maspeth and the gentrifying globoland of Williamsburg. Yet as I walked block after block I saw factories and warehouses that were open late at night, parking lots full of the cars of workers, and the sound of American industry in the air.
If America is going to be a nation that has a middle-class in the future, and if New York is going to be a city that is home to a working-class, than it is these kinds of areas that need to be preserved as they are slowly dying. In New York there are few left to fight for these places; so called liberal globo progressives are more concerned about creating urban lifestyle centers where they can live like grad students until they are forty and be served liked queens by underpaid undocumented workers at high-end restaurants and coffee shops and those on the left that are fighting the Rhodesians* are only concerned about issues such as affordable housing and raising the minimum wage, that while crucial, doesn’t address the issue of keeping good paying jobs in the city.
As I looked at the plates on the back of the cars of the workers I wondered how far they had driven to get to work. Could they afford to live in the neighborhood? Or did they not want to raise their families in neighborhoods with failing schools and dangerous influences?
On issues like these I feel that many Muslims are lacking in perspective. First of all there are few Muslims in America like me, that are white American converts who grew-up amongst the folk and connected to the culture. African-American Muslims understand these issues in some ways, as the economic effects of globalization on American workers has hit them the hardest; but the preservation of urban neighborhoods has not been the issue until recently amongst blacks because of the fact that the migration of the black middle-class to the suburbs has been even greater in the black community than it has in the white community. A young black professional that buys a brownstone in Bed-Stuy will likely get a “man, you paid a million dollars to live in the hood? You could have lived with my aunt for a few hundred bucks a month” while the white globo will get a “wonderful, that’s marvelous, is it a pre-war, my what character in that building”.
Immigrant Muslims in large part have never been connected to the folk and are largely connected to corporate America and have grown-up on MTV, suburbia, mindless consumerism, and shopping and eating at chain establishments (or aspiring to). When they see the white working-class they frown at the rednecks while welcoming the emasculated globos and when they see African-Americans they are locking the doors when they are not passing them up in their cabs or selling them rotten meat.
Then my thoughts pass to this; what would be the ultimate dream for the Rhodesians? Well, it is not a dream it already occurred, and that is Hurrican Katrina, and wouldnt they love to see a Hurricane like that hit every Lower 9th Ward in every city in America? So they could come in and by up the land and then rehab and sit in their sidewalk cafes and read The Nation and talk about how liberal they are after the only poor people that are left in the hood are those that are serving them. Or was I thinking about my converstaion with a Chinesse cabbie and he asked me how could Muslims pray five times and day and then sit at the cab stand and brag about ripping off thier passengers?
I think of this as I walk, and maybe I think too much, because I am tired as hell, remember I have an appointment in a few hours, and don’t feel like walking back, but I do. And now all I am thinking of is my bed.
This article also appeared on NYC IndyMedia