It's Not Always Sunny In Philadelphia: White Journalist Talks About "Being White In Philly"
Print Friendly and PDF

Here's a massively controversial article in Philadelphia Magazine where a white journalist talks about the subject of race in Philadelphia with less misdirection than is the norm:

Being White in Philly 

Whites, race, class, and the things that never get said. 

By Robert Huber 

March 2013 

759 Comments and 0 Reactions

My younger son goes to Temple, where he’s a sophomore. This year he’s living in an apartment with two friends at 19th and Diamond, just a few blocks from campus. It’s a dangerous neighborhood. Whenever I go see Nick, I get antsy and wonder what I was thinking, allowing him to rent there. 

One day, before I pick him up for lunch, I stop to talk to a cop who’s parked a block away from Nick’s apartment. 

“Is he already enrolled for classes?” the cop says when I point out where my son lives. 

Well, given that it’s December, I think so. But his message is clear: Bad idea, this neighborhood. A lot of burglaries and robberies. Temple students are prime prey, the cop says. 

Later, driving up Broad Street as I head home to Mount Airy, I stop at a light just north of Lycoming and look over at some rowhouses. One has a padlocked front door. A torn sheet covering the window in that door looks like it might be stained with sewage. I imagine not a crackhouse, but a child, maybe several children, living on the other side of that stained sheet. Plenty of children in Philadelphia live in places like that. Plenty live on Diamond, where my son rents, where there always seem to be a lot of men milling around doing absolutely nothing, where it’s clearly not a safe place to be. 

I’ve shared my view of North Broad Street with people—white friends and colleagues—who see something else there: New buildings. Progress. Gentrification. They’re sunny about the area around Temple. I think they’re blind, that they’ve stopped looking. Indeed, I’ve begun to think that most white people stopped looking around at large segments of our city, at our poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods, a long time ago. One of the reasons, plainly put, is queasiness over race. Many of those neighborhoods are predominantly African-American. And if you’re white, you don’t merely avoid them—you do your best to erase them from your thoughts. 

At the same time, white Philadelphians think a great deal about race. Begin to talk to people, and it’s clear it’s a dominant motif in and around our city. Everyone seems to have a story, often an uncomfortable story, about how white and black people relate.


Many other journalists have objected to Huber writing honestly about race:

Jason Fagone writes:

Philly Mag’s “Being White in Philly” Doesn’t Make Sense as Journalism 

How do you launch a frank discussion about race under a cloak of anonymity?

Uh, how do you a launch a frank discussion about race not under a cloak of anonymity? To be precise, Huber isn't anonymous, but the white people who agreed to talk to him wanted anonymity.

And here's more controversy from Romenesko.

Print Friendly and PDF