Working in the ghetto

Some more thoughts on race:

As a very white blonde haired 20 year old, I began working in the run down city of Harrisburg PA.  Harrisburg is mostly black with surrounding white suburbs and has always been racially charged.

Part of my job for 20 years was breaking into abandoned properties with a hammer and bar.  I also had to enter occupied homes with a pass key.  During those 20 years, I was NEVER stopped and questioned by anyone.  hmmm

I was robbed several times.  I was told, “what do you expect? you’re in the ghetto.”

I was told (with serious threats of physical harm) after forcing a violent black woman out of my office that “you NEVER touch a black woman in the ghetto!”  This was an argument over $10.

I was challenged by young black youths who were throwing rocks at my windows.  They said, “what are you going to do about it?”  They were right.  There was nothing I could do.  I couldn’t grab them (see note above).  I couldn’t call the police – that would have taken 3 hours if they showed up at all.  My only choice was to go back inside and hope that my windows didn’t break.

I learned to drive a pickup truck through the ghetto.  It was much safer.  When I drove a car, I received hate stares.  When I drove a truck, I was a worker.  But even that ended when it became dark.  Then it was clear that I needed to leave.

I often wished that I was black so that I could fit in. That is until black landlords hired me.  They said, “You’re lucky.  They respect you.  When I go to collect rent I get ‘you’re a brother, you understand’ instead of getting the rent.”

I watched white judges being replaced by black judges.  Entire office staffs changed overnight from white to black.  Rulings in the beginning were heavily sided to black tenants and against white landlords.  I didn’t protest.  I waited.  Soon the rulings swung back as the judges tired of hearing the same stories over and over and the challenge to ‘understand because they understand’.

Black cops/white cops – they all treated me the same.  They all questioned me on why I was in the ghetto.

Black housing inspectors – same as the judges.  They started out with anger and revenge.  Within a year they became friends and worked with me just like the white inspectors.

I now have a brown skinned 20 year old son.  I would not allow him to do the jobs that I did in the ghetto.  He wouldn’t be safe.  He would probably be arrested or at least challenged.  He has been pulled over and ticketed more in the last 2 years than I have in 30 years.  Some of it is justified.  Some of it I believe is stereotyping.  I tell him to be careful.  I tell him not to act or look “ghetto”.  So far it hasn’t worked.

There are aspects that I loved about working in the ghetto.  I made many friends.  I learned how to move and act.  I was challenged, threatened and hated at times.  I would NEVER want to be a policeman in that environment.  I don’t believe anyone understands the pressure, anxiety, and daily pressure that these men and women work in – black or white.

Let’s work through these issues as a nation.  Let’s not sweep them under the rug.  But we shouldn’t also jump to conclusions, judgment and more hate because we feel like we understand the situation.

josh isaiah


About Brian Fulmer

Brian is the owner of Crossroads Property Management Inc. ( He writes six blogs and has written two books. He also works with various missions around the world. His first love is Guatemala.
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