Success serves up city blacks as targets
When I first heard about the abduction and stabbing of former Pittsburgh Housing Authority Director Stanley Lowe over the weekend, I knew I would not sleep well.
Lowe's Manchester home was less than a mile from my old digs in the Mexican War Streets section of the North Side. Both neighborhoods are small bastions of middle-class gentility surrounded by poverty and 'hood life.
Like Lowe, I was well-known in the neighborhood where I lived from 1992-2005, mostly because of that little photo crammed into each of these newspaper columns. For some reason known only to people who don't work in media, I was considered among the street's wealthy residents, and was told so often.
Once, while painting my front porch, two men strolled by, pausing to remark, "Dang, brother, you paintin' your own house with as much cash as you got• Y'all rich people are crazy." That wasn't the only such remark concerning my supposed wealth to give me cause for concern over the years.
Our place had been burglarized twice in two years, and more than once I caught young men hinting at yet another try.
Some of my neighbors opined that such is the price paid by black professionals living in the inner city: By staying in questionable communities, we run the risk of being targeted because of our relative success. Conversely, others said it's not much of a price to pay for providing good, clear role models for neighborhood kids.
That sort of reasoning offered limited consolation for a while, but I gave up after a scrawny teenager I met at a local convenience store reminded me that I "ain't too big to get gotten, too. We know how many motorcycles you got in your garage," he reminded me as a warning. He was explaining that, even though we were both black, I was just another mark, just like my well-meaning white neighbors.
I wasn't surprised to hear that Lowe was at least visually familiar with one of his two attackers — neighborhood men vicious enough to stab and threaten to kill the 59-year-old for the couple of hundred bucks they imagined was in his ATM account.
If Lowe could have been stabbed to death for $200, I can't imagine what I was in line for with a garage full of tools and motorbikes.
Maybe Stanley Lowe is more attached to living in the Central North Side than I ever was, and good for him and his neighbors for his fortitude.
Still, after an incident like this, no one in his or her right mind could fault Lowe or anyone else for moving someplace where you're considered a neighbor, not a target.