Children Have Always Lived in Cities

Part of my problem withstories like the one linked in this post, and with discussions that begin with “you can’t raise a family in the city” anyway, is that they’re essentially classist and are about people who have a choice one way or the other, but never ever ever acknowledge that.

The other thread is the “people want to live in cities until they have kids then it’s too hard.” I get that quality of local schools is a genuine issue, but otherwise I’m rather confused by the “can’t raise 2 kids without a minivan in the suburbs” attitude I see from lots of people. People can and do raise kids in the city and manage just fine. Really not sure what the difficulties are.

It drives me wild when people say, “you can’t raise a child in the city,” because, um, POOR children have always grown up in cities. But screw them, they’re poor, and probably their parents could have saved them from the horror of not having a yard if they’d just bought cheaper groceries, so we don’t care about them. We mean OUR children, the nice ones, who are most likely white and made the virtuous choice to be born rich. For fuck’s sake, if a city is such a toxic environment in which to raise your child, then it’s a toxic environment in which to raise ANYONE’S child, but things only become trend stories when rich people do them, after all.

(Obligatory middle-class disclaimer: I can totally see where you want space and a yard and such with children. “Go outside and play” would be a lot easier if there was, you know, outside that wasn’t infested with people who don’t know how to drive and speed through alleys WHO DOES THAT I ASK YOU. Living in the city with any dependents or none at all is a pain in the ass sometimes. Right now I would commit murder for a heated garage. I HATE scraping off the car. I hate moving the car around based on street cleaning days and I hate, in general, the snowblowing goatfuckers who start up their horrible machines at 9 p.m. and sometimes I really hate hearing the neighbors’ TV. And in the summer I long for central air. But if I had a lawn to take care of and a roof to worry about, I’d hate that too and bitch about it all the time. Bitching about our living situations is what human beings do.)

I’m not saying you then have to stay in the city or should even want to stay there, I mean, do whatever the hell you want, but at least acknowledge that fact in the conversation. “I didn’t want to raise my kid with crackheads in the alley” is a different thing than “You can’t raise a child with crackheads in the alley.” One’s a statement of preference (shit, people rasie their kids with crackheads in the next room), the other’s acting like your own situation wasn’t a choice you made.

Which ignores a whole swath of the population we really shouldn’t be ignoring when we talk about how to make decent lives for kids.


4 thoughts on “Children Have Always Lived in Cities

  1. Whoa, whoa, whoa.
    Didn’t you get the memo? Whenever there’s a discussion of “making decent lives for [group of people],” the word “white” is supposed to follow the preposition.
    Glad I could clear that up for you.

  2. Part of my problem with stories like the one linked in this post, and with discussions that begin with “you can’t raise a family in the city” anyway, is that they’re essentially classist and are about people who have a choice one way or the other, but never ever ever acknowledge that.
    Oh man, Atrios will have a conniption fit when he sees that. He hates that shit.
    Slightly unrelated but I hear the same thing about dogs: “It’s cruel to raise a dog in the city, dogs need to be out on a farm in the country.” What a load of horseshit. I have lived in cities and I have lived in Bumfug Kentucky and let me tell you, the country ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. My husband was a Kentucky farm boy and one of the favorite games played at family get-togethers is “tell the sad stories about how our family pets met their untimely ends.” Seriously. Ever been out to the country? Dogs are not roaming free chasing butterflies, they are chained to trees or lying squashed by the side of the road or are some coyote’s dinner.
    It’s the same with kids. All the kids I know out in the sticks are getting into trouble, dealing dope, cooking meth, getting pregnant at 15, raped by their uncle at 13, you name it.
    You know, I’ll never forget the time I went to a friend’s bridal shower in Bumfug Kentucky. She was a school teacher, high school English. All the other women were also school teachers. I didn’t know them but about an hour into it they started talking about how their husbands rent a van once a month and come down to Nashville to get drunk and go to the strip clubs and titty bars while the women stay at home. Small town values, eh? How ’bout them apples!
    It’s the biggest load of shit I’ve ever heard. Look at the Palins: daughter preggers at 16 (or was it 17?), father’s mom arrested for B&E to support a meth habit, son is constantly in trouble and sent off to the military … I mean, I’d feel sorry for them if they didn’t keep acting like they’re so goddamned better than the rest of us who live in towns with sidewalks and museums and a Starbucks.
    This class warfare shit is all over the place right now and I’m SO over it.

  3. I grew up in the city, and it was great. There was an entire world to discover, playgrounds to play in, stores to shop, places to go, and then, as I got older, museums, movies, and exotic neighborhoods to explore. Kids raised in the suburbs are prisoners, under house arrest, in their homes, paroled only for activities and play dates. No wonder so many of them turned to drugs or alcohol. The country doesn’t strike me as much better unless one is has a temperament that draws comfort and strength from nature.
    I think a lot of the problem is that people decided to run away from the cities, rather than fix them. Sure, you didn’t want to raise your family in a slum, but there was a lot more to cities than slums, even in the golden age of the slum. Of course, running away from the cities didn’t work. The problems took a while, but they caught up in spades. It takes more than raw cowardice to make a better world.

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