09 February 2008

My CityZine Article About View Park

Creating a Culture of Incarceration?

One of the most daunting tasks a parent will ever face is finding an acceptable daycare for her children. Kidshealth.org advises parents to “ensure that [their] child is safe and happy in a child care environment that is fun, educational and nurturing.” Child development experts in both the public and private sector share this sentiment. Why, then, would a state-licensed daycare facility surround itself—or, more specifically, its play yards—in barbed wire?

The daycare in question is not in Fallujah or along the Gaza Strip. It lies in the heart of a middle-class black neighborhood here in Los Angeles, a neighborhood that Wikipedia describes as “one of the wealthiest majority-African American areas in the United States.” View Park is considered one of L.A.’s best-kept secrets. Lying 20 minutes away from almost everything (the beach, Downtown, Hollywood and the South Bay), View Park defies all of the stereotypes Los Angelenos hold about black neighborhoods. It experienced “white flight” in the early 1960’s. Interestingly enough, white homeowners are now returning, having realized the home prices there are more affordable than they are in more well known areas. View Park is a bona fide neighborhood; the folks at one end of a block probably know the names of the majority of the people on their street. Neighbors actually wave and speak to one another (which is more than can be said for many other neighborhoods in Los Angeles). A friend who grew up in, and still lives in, View Park once described it as “Mayberry”.

The Mayberry we all know and love was protected by a sheriff who refused to carry a gun and deputy whose gun was unloaded (since the one bullet he was given rested in his shirt pocket). There were no episodes about Opie going to daycare and having to scale a fence topped with barbed wire when he got it in his cute little red head to run home for one of Aunt Bea’s perfect lunches.

No one can successfully argue that a daycare with barbed wire creates a healthy environment, let alone one that is fun or nurturing. Barbed wire is for felons, not for children. This country’s prison industrial complex was built, in part, on the assumption that blacks commit the majority of the crimes for which the punishment is a prison sentence. Statistics about black men and incarceration rates abound in the media. Most people, knowing no better, believe what they hear (and what they read). It is when one travels to neighborhoods like View Park that one begins to question these myths . . . until one comes upon the daycare and its barbed wire.

Many questions come to mind upon seeing the barbed wire at a place charged with the caring for children while their parents are at work. Why would the owners use such material on the facility’s fences? Someone suggested that there had been thefts of playground equipment in the past. There is a proper solution to that problem. It is called build a taller fence. Why do the parents continue to send their children to a place that obviously has so little respect for them or their children? (How do you think the parents in predominantly white or Jewish neighborhoods would react to a daycare surrounded by barbed wire? They would not stand for it.)

View Park is a wonderful neighborhood. The streets are quiet and the people are friendly. Most people who were born and raised there never leave. They’ve got a good thing in View Park and they know it. The only blot on the landscape is the children’s prison fronting as a daycare.


Drew said...

That is an interesting take on this particular situation and neighborhood. It definitely would be intimidating to have my kids there. And it doesn't represent the neighborhood like it should. On another note, although my kids have a nanny primarily due to my daughter's disability I will have a hard time letting them go into any daycare easily. They are both in preschool and the nanny handles the kids before and after, and occasionally during daycare. We are going to buy a nanny cam also. Not because we think anything bad is occurring...Just to be sure that it never has and never will...

clayfin said...

had to come over here since you don't post over there any more. My first reaction on seeing this was that it was a "keep people out" move, like child snatchers. But theft deterrent makes sense too. I didn't consider it was about keeping the little kids in. Perhaps it is theft deterrent but they don't have enough funds for a better material, or a whole new fence? Maybe it's one of those seemed like a good idea at the time things. Interested to know if you interviewed them about it - it does leave a really bad impression. Oh, and I love the name of the school.

Drew said...

By the way...Your writing and your descriptions within your writings are always top notch....Being who you are and being able to talk about these topics at any time, with anybody always impresses me too...Most people of any race just don't think of these things enough..