Father’s Day lunch had wound down and I slipped away to open my Blackberry Playbook and maybe read a page or two of the latest book I was on, “Dearly Devoted Dexter”. I’d already read the first one and found myself enjoying the character and the stories. I didn’t find the ‘serial killer who hunts serial killers’ angle as much of a twist as what the writer did toy get us into the head of his character, which I think is very well done. I plan on reading all of them, because it can’t be easy to grow a character who isn’t even human in the strictest sense of the word. I had all of this in my head, ready to enjoy a few pages, when my brother, Shayne, leaned theatrically over my shoulder. I laughed a little, at the comparison and contrast of Dexter to Shayne. He wouldn’t get it so I kept it to myself.
“Let’s use this thing to check out Compton,” he said. “Not for reading.”
“It’s the second Dexter novel,” I said. “I’m really enjoying it.”
“There’s a TV show about it, you know,” he said. “You can watch it.”
I considered starting an argument with him, but the one I was already having with him was too much fun as it was. So I closed my epub reader and opened a Wikipedia window on my Playbook, typing ‘Compton’ into the search field.
Shayne pointed to the second sentence of the second paragraph.
“Ha,” he said. “Told you. There’s gangs.” He stepped back and almost away from me, proud that he had made his point.
“What?” I said. “Read the sentence before that one that uses the the phrase ‘popularized in the American media’. And the paragraph before tells you how the city has a long history, with it being incorporated in 1888. If you’re going to make huge statements about Compton, you’ve got a responsibility to read about it. There’s alot more to it than how you are characterizing it.”
“There are reports out that that tell about how bad the place is,” Shayne started.
“What reports?” I asked.
“Sports reports,” he said. When he said it, he smirked. Sports reports are at the bottom of my list of things to do, right after watching sports, playing sports, and going to bars to watch sports on big screen televisions.
“Which sports reports?” I asked. “Tell me,” I said, and pointed to my Blackberry Playbook. “And I’ll look them up.”
“This is ridiculous,” he said. “Compton is one of the worst cities in the states. Maybe the world. You don’t know any different.”
“Shayne!” my mother hollered. “Don’t talk like that.”
“How is it,” my brother Shayne asked. “That you started an argument and I got in trouble over it?”
I smiled and went to the bathroom, as my Mom chastised him in her Mom way, but it wouldn’t have lasted for long. Shayne and I had been arguing like this since we were, well, Shayne and I. I never get angry, but I do get passionate. I think it’s healthy. And it all started as making fun of our other brother, Chad, about an hour or so before.
“She’s going to be another Mary Lou Retton,” Chad said. He cupped his hands and hit the big, pink ball (decorated with white and purple butterflies) volleyball style over to my daughter, Elena. I looked over at her. She managed to look fierce and funny all at the same time, my beautiful little girl. She will be seven in October.
“Another who?” Shayne asked. He sat on the other side of the raised wooden deck in a rickety old lawn chair. The deck came with the house when Mom and Dad bought it six or seven years ago, but Dad only recently renovated it, taking off the roof and chopping here and cutting there, putting in steps on either side of the deck.
“Mary Lou Retton,” I repeated. “It’s the only female athelete that Chad knows.”
I stopped to think for a moment. “And you know, frankly, at this moment, I can’t think of another female athelete to save my life.”
“The Williams sisters,” Lisa pointed out. She’s my brother Shayne’s long suffering and saintly girlfriend.
“Very good,” I said. “But they aren’t really girls. Well, they certainly aren’t feminine.”
“True,” Lisa said. “But they are women.”
“Correct. Thank you.”
“They’re all hopped up on HGH,” Shayne said. “They’re genetic freaks. They’re huge like and successful because they wanted to get out of Compton. Plus, there’s no such thing as a woman athelete anyway.”
“What?” I said. For me, this was blood in the water. And he knew it. I could have picked up on the sexist sports comment, but my utter lack of sports knowledge and how it is argued, would have me at the disadvantage. But the Compton remark. That could be something. Shayne and I had gone all afternoon and not one single argument. So, yeah, he knew it.
“How can you say that about Compton?” I asked. “You don’t know anything about Compton.”
“And you do?” He said.
“No I don’t, which is why I am asking how it is you can say that about Compton.”
“It’s in all of the reports. Anyone who is in sports who is from Compton, got into sports to get out of Compton. There are rappers, too. Snoop Dogg is one of them.”
Personally, I like Snoop Dogg. I know some of the classic bits of him (the one that came to mind was the music video where his director used the tech from the Terminator 2 film to have all of the characters in the video transmogrify electronically into dogs – and for some reason the video also makes me think of the classic oil painting ‘Dogs Playing Poker’.) and I thought he was from Compton but I couldn’t be exactly sure. As much as I liked Snoop Dogg, though, his lyrics weren’t exactly a resource unless it came with references. I said as much.
“I’ve driven by Compton,” Lisa offered. “It doesn’t look very nice from the outside.”
“But what does it look like from the inside?” I asked.
Lisa didn’t know any more than I do. I pressed on.
“Where else have you heard about it?” I asked.
“Rap music,” he said. “Rappers talk about it all of the time.”
Lisa went on to point out, that there was a trend in rap music that had the lyricist writing about Compton as it was, and were using the starkness of reality to get their point across. I thought for a moment that she would start quoting them, thus destroying my argument about references. I pressed on the advantage.
“But, you have to admit, on the success of those reality based lyrics, that two Comptons were created – the one where everyone lived and the Compton that was profitable to talk about. So, there lies the story about what Compton really is. You can’t make generalizations, Shayne, without knowing more.”
We argued a bit and for some more, and then I think he either went on the lawn or inside. I didn’t consider it a victory, just a start.
I turned to Lisa. “I am posting about this tonight,” I said.
She shook her head. “He doesn’t do Facebook anymore, so don’t post it there.”
“Oh, no, ” I said. “I’m going to tweet it and write in my blog about it.”
Lisa laughed softly and shook her head. I’m not sure if she was more exasperated by him, me, or the two of us, grown men, acting like kids.
So, that being said, and me being true to my word, here goes some point form facts about Compton. I intended to do this last night, but I waited for this morning.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Compton had a population of 96,455. The population density was 9,534.3 people per square mile (3,681.2/km²). The racial makeup of Compton was 24,942 (25.9%) White, 31,688 (32.9%) African American, 655 (0.7%) Native American, 292 (0.3%) Asian, 718 (0.7%) Pacific Islander, 34,914 (36.2%) from other races, and 3,246 (3.4%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 62,669 persons (65.0%).
The last bit had me confused, until I realized what it had done was taken the bulk of the population, black, white or otherwise, and made another distinction from the 96 455, to state that of the black, white, or otherwise, 65% of the population are Hispanic or Latino. The reason I point this out is because my brother wanted to tell me that the bulk of Compton were African Americans.
Compton was recently designated as an “Entrepreneurial Hot Spot” by Cognetics, Inc., an independent economic research firm. Compton made the national list for best places to start and grow a business, and ranked #2 in Los Angeles County out of a field of 88 cities
I wanted to point this out because Shayne tried to tell me that everyone was trying to get out of Compton, when here is one piece of proof that tells us that there are companies that are trying to get into Compton. As a matter of fact, grocery chains like ‘Ralphs’, ‘Food 4 Less’ (which are subsiduaries of the larger ‘Krogers’) have their head offices in Compton.
Compton is not even in the top 11 most dangerous cities, according to one article.
However, to be fair, the next link, points to an FBI report that has it as being rated as being the 8th most dangerous in the country.
But, if you will look at it, St. Louis, Camden, Detroit and Flint, are listed above, and frankly, are closer to Toronto than Compton, which makes me wonder a little bit.
Sure, Compton has it’s reputation, but no one writes lyrics about the bad streets of St. Louis. I wonder why that is?
In 2010 a report stated that the crime rate fell by 16%. And, more recently, Compton crime statistics report an overall downward trend in crime based on data from 12 years with violent crime decreasing and property crime decreasing. Based on this trend, the crime rate in Compton for 2013 is expected to be lower than in 2010.
And the Wikipedia article on Compton, which I can’t quote chapter and verse but it did give me the overall sense of it being a city that has had it’s share of problems, but has a devoted base of people who will work to make it better.
I have to thank Shayne, though. I knew nothing of Compton before I started this and now, after spending a little bit of time on the internet, I was able to learn enough that now, when it comes back into conversation, I can speak to it a little more intelligently.
Thanks for the Father’s Day gift, Shayne. Sorry, man. I didn’t get you anything but this blog post.