When my husband and I found out we were pregnant, we did something a little unconventional for most Americans—we plopped a “For Sale” sign in the yard of our suburban home and moved into the city. Finding a place for all our recently acquired baby items in a tiny condo wasn’t easy, but we’ve come to love our new neighborhood of First Ward more than we thought possible. We walk to breweries and coffee shops; we take our son to the park and Imaginon; we see the skyline every day. It’s wonderful.
I got a job as the Editor for EatWorkPlay and was told to expect an assignment covering all the CIAA festivities. It sounded like a blast. I wanted to see what the tournament was all about…
But when I started thinking about staying out at parties all night only to return to an infant who wakes up at 6:00am, it became less appealing. So I let the assignment pass by and went to bed (unashamedly) early each night.
As it turns out, the article opportunity popped up on my doorstep anyway.
A few weeks ago, our neighbors asked if we were renting out our place for the CIAA. An uptown condo can bring in quite a pretty penny and—according to our neighbors—we wouldn’t want to be around for those few days anyway. Too many people. Too much chaos.
We stayed. We thought nothing of it. On Friday evening around 6:00, we walked as a family and scouted everything set up around First Ward Park. Massive tents, bouncers waiting, and food trucks galore. We interacted with people we passed, people who didn’t share our skin color but were nonetheless friendly, jovial, and one man in particular even called my son “Shorty,” (which I found to be adorable.) My husband and I talked about the adventure we could have if we didn’t have children, but we love our baby too much to entertain those thoughts for long, so we went home and enjoyed a peaceful evening.
The next night, at 6:30, just 24 hours after our familial stroll: bullets. A hundred of them. Riddling apartments and cars and tearing into our beloved First Ward. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. But if I’m being honest? I’m definitely freaked out. My husband is too. We were just there; we were right on that street. What if we had gone for a walk on Saturday night, instead? We would’ve had the baby with us. What would’ve happened?
I’d be lying if I said I won’t be a little apprehensive about meandering through Uptown next year during the CIAA. But I wanted to speak out on behalf of Uptown residents—as a living, breathing, white girl who actually resides in the area—because others on social media seem to be speaking out for me.
I do not blame the CIAA.
Well, not really. Not in the way those speaking for me do. Allow me to present you with what I’ve read. I only have to show you one thread; these comments are all from the same article.
“This tourney brings thugs into the city and problems that far outweigh any economic benefit. Reports now say it was between two rappers which shows what kind of thugs come to Charlotte…”
“You can bet each of shooters had no license to carry and votes Democrat.”
“The Brotherhood of Man.............in groups of large gatherings, predictable.
Gotta love and tolerate this, right? NOT! I can not wait to hear the CC's and CO's justification to bring this event back next year??? Glad I'll be retired living the hell outta Charlotte and it's 'progressive' bowel movements.”
And then there’s this banter:
Yes, these comments were written by people with skin like mine. Do they ever directly state that the shooting occurred because a large amount of black people were visiting Charlotte this weekend? No. But there’s a big ol’ elephant in the room telling me it’s what they mean.
So here’s what I, token white girl from First Ward, would like to say. The shootings scare me. They do. 6:30 in the evening seems far too early for 100 shots to be let loose. But I don’t blame thugs or rappers and especially not “those people.”
I just blame people. And the CIAA brings in a whole whole bunch of people. There’s no other event that matches this tournament in size so it’s difficult to compare its crime rate to other Charlotte events. (NASCAR can’t be compared because its attendees aren’t sprawled across city streets but remain inside parking lots and a stadium. And the DNC from a few years ago can’t be compared because, well, nothing compares to an event flooded with secret service agents.) Speed Street is probably the best comparison and it brings its own criminal activity every year as well.
Bullets don’t need a certain skin color to be loaded. Triggers don’t require a specific ethnicity to be pulled. People make dumb choices. People shoot guns. Just people.
I love this city and I adore my First Ward neighborhood with all my heart. If you’ve got something you’d like to say about the recent events, please do. But don’t speak for me. And don’t speak for my neighborhood unless you share our zip code.
This time next year, my family and I will most likely go for a stroll; my son will be walking on his own by then. Sure, we’ll be more cautious. Hesitant. We won’t be able to keep from wondering if it could happen again. If you blame me, then you’ve never walked past bullet holes with your child in your arms.
But we will go. And eventually, we’ll find the food truck selling soul food, drool over the gloriousness of fried green tomatoes, and move on.