Bias, Banter and the Bronx

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Bias, Banter and the Bronx

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On Friday, members of the Fordham community received a series of notifications from the university detailing the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) pursuit and ultimate apprehension of two males on Rose Hill campus.

The response to the incident by some within the campus gates is evident of a broader problem of discrimination towards the surrounding area, one that plagues our campus and contributes to the divide between the two communities.

Many of us at Fordham are temporary residents of the Bronx. We choose to spend several months of several years here. We take advantage of its rich food, cultural opportunities and varied resources, and our campus should be in partnership with this community rather than a semi-permeable subset of it.

Prejudices need not be intentional to be harmful, and we should not harbor any bias against the full time residents that make the area what it is.

A popular Instagram account among students known as Barstool Fordham posted a video of the two men being pinned down by NYPD officers in front of a group of prospective students with the caption “Not the best look to be preaching about how safe Fordham is to a tour of incoming freshman with this going on in the background.”

Several students commented on the post implying that such incidents are a regular occurrence.

“Woah. Hom[i]cide?” “business as usual here in the Bronx” and “wanna come visit me yet” were just a few of the remarks left under the video.

The implication of such language is that the university is an unsafe place because of constant and dangerous threats from Bronx residents.

These attitudes – held by some students, parents and friends – perpetuate a false narrative of the surrounding area that is both harmful and unjust, and it is shameful that people would take such a blasé, sarcastic and demeaning tone towards a community they should be actively maintaining a positive relationship with.

The Ram notes the irony of NYPD having a physical altercation with criminals at the precise time a tour group happens to walk by. We recognize the post and its comments were meant to be harmless jokes.

Nonetheless, we ask you to consider why jokes about the Bronx’s supposedly characteristic criminality are made by university students in the first place and why they are found to be humorous.

We ask you to examine the perspective that allows one to view the arrest of two individuals potentially suffering from drug addictions through a comedic lens.

The men who found their way onto campus with 20 bags of heroin and several knives presented a threat to Fordham students.

The university took proper care in alerting those on Rose Hill’s campus through its messaging system, both while the pursuit was taking place and after the threat had been resolved.

Yet, to make the assumption that crime, drug use and other risks are inherently and uniquely characteristic to the Bronx – and, even worse, that Fordham students are both especially endangered by and otherwise immune to these blights personally – is misguided and offensive, even if meant in jest.

The Bronx did experience a period of instability and heightened-crime beginning in the 1970s, as seemingly endless fires ravaged the borough and abandonment and flames seriously deteriorated infrastructure.

However, crime rates in the Bronx have hit record lows during recent years.

While Fordham students must maintain the same baseline level of awareness, caution and street smarts when navigating the Bronx required in Manhattan or any other metropolitan neighborhood, students are not constantly subjected to incidents like the one that occurred this past Friday.

Incidents that involve the safety of students are responded to, addressed and investigated adequately by Public Safety or the NYPD.

Many assumptions of heightened danger in the area stem from a place of racist or classist prejudice, whether intentional or subconscious, rather than fact or lived experience. These preconceptions must change.

It is important that we are conscious of and continually question even our most subtle implicit biases so that we may work past them.

The “us versus them” mentality held by some within Fordham’s gates, and also by some without, is one we should be actively working to fix.

Many individuals acknowledge the divide between the two communities and are committed to ending it. Fordham provides various opportunities for students to get involved in and appreciate the richness of the surrounding area and contribute to it in return.

Urban Plunge is a pre-orientation program for first-year undergraduates that allows students the ability to “see New York in a way that even native New Yorkers do not often get to experience” through service projects, explorations of local art and in-depth reflection of group activities.

Bronx Celebration Day is an annual celebration in April that aims to unite the Fordham and Bronx communities through music, food and art.

Many students take advantage of these opportunities and create others, passionately engaging with the area and its residents and cultivating sustainable relationships through mutual respect.

However, the university and surrounding area cannot achieve a fully symbiotic relationship if any member of our Fordham community continues to discriminate against or feel superior to the borough and its residents even in smaller, unintentional ways like creating social media posts that retrogress the conversation.

It is worth noting that Barstool Sports has sold and continues to sell tee shirts that proudly display the phrase “Saturday is for the Bronx.

There are many ways to positively interact with the Bronx. Inserting oneself into the community, profiting off of an ethos of inclusion and then ridiculing the area for being unsafe, inferior or unfit to live in is not one of them.

The Ram asks all Fordham students to rethink their attitudes towards the local community. We ask you to question what grounds your current assumptions rest on and find ways, no matter how small, to improve them.

We ask you to examine your implicit biases and the sense of humor they inspire. We ask that you not laugh at the Bronx’s expense.

We ask you to discover what you might unknowingly be harboring and what might be holding you back from establishing a better relationship with the larger community you are presently a member of.