Today, East Liberty—a neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s East End—is a hypergentrified concentration of boutique hotels, upscale retail, luxury lofts and “’90s-style hip-hop fried chicken” restaurants. The redevelopment has been so dramatic, the name of the neighborhood has changed. Some now call it Eastside—a colonizing portmanteau of East Liberty and the neighboring (and predominantly white) Shadyside.
This is also where I grew up. And the East Liberty of the early and mid-’90s was a vastly different place than it is today. From 1989 to 1995, my parents and I lived on the 700 block of Mellon Street, perhaps the hottest stretch in what was then a crime- and gang-infested neighborhood. I’ve seen it all—drive-bys, crack, stabbings, shootings, murders. My mom was even shot while sleeping in her bed by a drug dealer who mistook our house for a rival’s and shot through our windows. (The bullet ricocheted off a wall and hit her wrist.)
Basically, I know what it means to live in the hood because, well, I’ve lived in the hood. And I also know that misinformation about living in the hood is pervasive, existing everywhere from news articles and TV shows about it to the conversations that people not from it have about it. Some of these inaccurate presumptions and outright lies are a bit more popular—and a bit more dangerous—than the rest. Here are 10:
1. Kids who are smart are teased and bullied for “acting white.”
Admittedly, this experience is/was, in fact, the reality for many kids from the hood. I don’t want to pretend as if these things didn’t happen to them. But that experience is often thought of as the norm, when it’s more of the exception.
Of course, teasing and bullying might happen, because teasing and bullying happen everywhere. But if you’re a kid in the hood who has some sort of academic/intellectual talent, it’s more than likely that you’ll have people in the neighborhood supporting and protecting you than trying to beat the “whiteness” out of you.