“We Are Not Animals in the Hood”

Lisa Gray-Garcia has written a superb article for Poor People Magazine about a new phenomena of “Gang Tours” in LA, where tourists can pay to see REAL! graffiti, the Skid Row, “all-black” public housing, and even The World’s Largest Jail! Now white people too can enjoy Compton and South Central Los Angeles, after purchasing the $65 ticket and then riding in air-conditioned (bullet-proof?) buses on this “customized high-end specialty tour”.

LA Gang ToursLA Gang Tours is a non-profit run by LA activists, which says the profits will be funneled back into the community.

Lisa Gray-Garcia says the tours “zoo-ify” poor people and people of color, who will clearly not be paying $65 to drive around looking at projects, tags and bullet holes.

Some evidence makes the zoo-ification more than speculative:

From the LA Times:

But one backer said he also hopes to stage dance-offs between locals; tourists would pick a winner and fork over a cash prize. It wasn’t long ago that organizers decided against a plan to have kids shoot tourists with water pistols, followed by the sale of T-shirts that read: “I Got Shot in South-Central.”

Come see how they live! In their natural environment! We’ll even make the natives dance!

Commenter ipastor01 at the Huffington Post wrote:

OJ’s house, Brentwood

Manson Moorders, Beverly Hills

Neverland Ranch, Santa Barbara

Polanski case, Hollywood Hills

Do come down to my neighborhood to get away form those crime ridden cities running wild with thugs.

Take it away Lisa:

One of the many oxymoronic aspects of this concept is the notion… that our neighborhoods, our communities, our corners, our schools, and our homes, are crazy, dirty, sick, disgusting and must be cleaned up, cleaned out and eradicated, hygienic metaphors about humans scattered about with impunity. And the complete and utter disregard for the fact that in everyone of these so-called, blighted neighborhoods, filthy apartment buildings and poor people schools, homes and communities, there are families and elders and children of color who are living, thriving, learning, and resisting. There are heroes, and leaders, and lecturers and healers, and dreamers and teachers, and poets and artists, revolutionaries and scholars…

I started this piece by saying I had terror in my heart about the gang tours, but be clear its not terror for the poor, unsuspecting tourist, default colonizers and 21st century missionaries, stumbling and trampling over our communities and cultures as the well-meaning gang tours commence, rather, its terror for the residents of the proposed tour sites, and so I caution all of the community members, families and young people to hold on carefully to their purses, wallets, belongings, poetry, art and scholarship, cause, well, you know how dangerous those tourists can be.

Please read her whole article at Poor Magazine.