2002-12-14 / Columnists

From the G-Man

By Gary G. Toms


Swallowing Some Bitter Medicine

Hey people! Since I started writing this column I have received both praise and scorn for positions I have taken on certain issues. I have been called divisive, a racist, a person of limited intellect, and, at worst, a "coon" who should go back to Africa if I don't support Bush's war on terrorism.

There are those, including a former editor, who told me that I have to develop more of a "tough skin" in dealing with criticism from people within the peninsula. While that may be true to some extent, this editor was missing one crucial fact regarding the criticism. Most of the attacks were lodged by people who had a problem with me addressing the issue of race in Rockaway, and in the world as a whole. They made it abundantly clear that they did not appreciate my speaking out on the subject. Moreover, many claimed that things were absolutely fine between the black and white communities of Rockaway, and that my column and investigative reporting (both of which had racial themes at times) was causing unnecessary problems.

"You're the worst thing that ever happen to The Wave. The sooner you leave, the better," complained one person.

"You remind me of an untrained and out of control monkey, and you have no business being the editor of a community newspaper. You are no better than Al Sharpton, with your racist tirades. It's because of you that I'm canceling my subscription," said a reader from Florida.

Yes, perhaps I should have a thick skin, but there's a world of difference between being attacked because I'm just not getting the job done (as a writer/journalist) versus being attacked because I'm a black man in a position to challenge the status quo. For the people who have a searing hatred for blacks, for whatever reason, I become a primary vehicle for them to spew all their anger, bitterness and relentless viciousness because I am associated with the source of their hate. So, they see me as an opportunity to let it all hang out, with regard to their true feelings on race. Some went as far as to state the following:

"Let me tell you what the problem is with your people G-man."

I often wondered when they were going to tell me about the problems with their people.

"So what if most of the black people live on one end of Rockaway and whites on the other! It's better that way because the people on the West end are safer. Black people commit a majority of the crimes in America. You know it's true G-man."

Gee, I don't recall any of the Enron, WorldCom, or other Fortune 500 company executives that were arrested being black!

These folks never mention the fact that good, hardworking, and successful black people are part of Rockaway as well.

If I sit back and say nothing when these people rip on me, especially involving stories or columns addressing race, it doesn't make me any better than the person who turns their head while a crime is being committed. Rockaway, with regard to race, has gotten to the point that it has because no one has firmly taken the reigns and said, "Hey, there's something wrong here." I made the decision to bust this bad-assed bronco!

Burying our heads in the sand over the issue of race is not going to bring the community together. Making insensitive statements that vilify and characterize a group of people as criminals will not bring the community together. Maintaining a tradition of having St. Patrick's Day Parade participants march to a certain point of Rockaway and then turn back will never bring the community together. Parents who don't want to send their kids to schools in certain areas will not bring the community together. Building upper-level income homes, and forcing out lower-income residents, will not bring the community together. Most importantly, the nasty jackasses who berate me for addressing the issue of race have no intention of bringing the community together. For them, I am their worst nightmare, and every time I address the issue of race, I become the equivalent of that uneasy feeling they had after they screwed around on their ever-faithful wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend. Guilt is a b---h!

You know what's sad? Some of the very people that I describe in this column will send more Emails and letters saying that I'm stoking the racial fires once again, when all I'm trying to do is confront a demon that has had a stranglehold on Rockaway for far too long. Some people have allowed themselves to become "demonized," while others, like me, have accepted the role of exorcist. They will continue to say I'm divisive, but they need to realize that a divisive person would never write a column like this.

They will say, "Goddammit! Is this the only thing this guy knows how to write about? I'm sick of hearing about black this and white that! He's trying to enforce his beliefs on people." I feel really sorry for those people, and quite frankly, they should shut up and keep turning the pages.

Those who continuously equate blacks with crime are not giving due respect to blacks on the peninsula who make just as much money as they do. History, and geographical data, clearly illustrate that they have not been well received in certain areas of Rockaway either. I can understand someone having a problem with living next to a criminal, but I will never understand the logic behind not allowing someone to live next to you if they make just as much money as you do. In some cases, they may make even more, but for some strange reason they are not represented in the higher-income sections of Rockaway. If I came into $20 million dollars, I'd dare someone to tell me where I could and could not live.

In any case, if Rockaway residents are going to peacefully coexist, now and in the future, there must be a period when we deal with the fact that there are two different Rockaways. Too many events, past and present, are labeled as east end or west end. It does not have to be this way.

The only unifying agent within the peninsula is the church. Catholics welcome Baptists, Baptists welcome Jews, and Jews welcome Muslims in their houses of worship. If we can worship together, as illustrated by the menorah next to the Christmas tree in Far Rockaway, why do we find it difficult to love, trust and believe in one another?

We do have issues, like any other town or area in New York City, and treating each other like they are the enemy will not solve the problem. Adopting an attitude of, "As long as they stay down there," will not solve the problem. Rockaway has projects, and Rockaway has major projects under construction. Rockaway has well-to-do people, and Rockaway has those that aren't doing too well. Somehow, we have to learn to come together, ask ourselves some serious questions, and dialogue about why the racial situation is the way it is in this wonderful beachfront community called Rockaway.

I'm going to close by saying that I look forward to seeing many of my friends and supporters at the Deerfield Area Association Inc.'s Annual Christmas Dinner Dance on Saturday, December 14. The event will run from 10-3 a.m., and those being honored this year include Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation's (RDRC) Executive Director, Curtis Archer; Deerfield's Finance Secretary, Tony Williams; and some guy who calls himself "The G-man." Call (718) 471-6903 for more info.

Sorry...just one more thing. Anthony Shannon, I do have a life, and tell me.... what have you done lately to try and bring the east and west end communities together? If the answer is nothing, then I suggest you shut your mouth. Your letter (see Letter 1 in "Bag of Mail" section), and the comments made this week by incoming Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, goes a long way in proving why we need to have a dialogue on race in Rockaway and in the country.

See you next week!


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