An interesting article…
Can Your Neighborhood Pass The Trick-Or-Treat Test?
By Paul Kersey on October 31, 2011
It’s fitting that Ray Bradbury, the author of the acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451, considered his most important work a children’s story. Called The Halloween Tree, Bradbury’s story is a glorification of Halloween and a journey through the origins and traditions of the festival he considers is the most important celebrated in America.
More importantly, his story is a celebration of an American nation that once existed. Just like the hopeless liberals from Prairie Home Companion on NPR who celebrate a culture that is actively being demographically overwhelmed, Bradbury’s story celebrates a people—and their unique traditions—who built the kind of communities that, as Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam laments, racial and religious diversity helps make extinct.
The opening lines of The Halloween Tree (it was made into a cartoon, (watch it here) narrated by Bradbury himself) are a celebration of the historic majority population of America:
“It was a small town by a small river and a small lake in a small northern part of a Midwest state. There wasn’t so much wilderness around that you couldn’t see the town. On the other hand, there wasn’t so much town around that you couldn’t see and feel and touch the wilderness. The town was full of fences to walk on and sidewalks to skate on and the muted cries and laughter of boys and girls full of costume dreams and pumpkin spirits, preparing for the greatest night of the year, better than Easter, better than Christmas—Halloween.”
The story celebrates Trick or Treating—that American tradition which now identifies whether or not you live in a safe community where parents feel comfortable sending their kids out into the night to collect candy from their neighbors.
Bradbury’s book was written to help young children understand the traditions and history of Halloween so that they could appreciate why they dressed up as hosts, mummies, skeletons, etc. Now, as so many communities across the nation have parents who bowl alone, having a book dedicated to extolling the virtues of Trick or Treating when the communities across America look radically different from when Bradbury wrote his book in 1972 seems like an anachronism.
How many parents live in cities where they don’t feel safe sending their kids out into the night to Trick or Treat? Well, if you are a Stuff White People Like white person living in a gentrified neighborhood in Washington DC, Atlanta, or New York, perhaps you throw exclusive parties for your children where just you and your other friends’ children (some toting Sandra Bullock-worthy accessories) gather to celebrate Halloween.
To test the true health, strength and vitality of your neighborhood (and by extension, city), ask yourself how many Trick or Treaters you get on Halloween? Are the streets full of young people dressed in fantasy costumes, walking from house to house asking for candy?
Remember, Trick or Treating is truly a celebration of community, and if the houses around you are adorned in Halloween decorations in anticipation of ghoulish revelers, you probably live in a city with an excellent school system (i.e. an almost all-white school system).
For as Putnam stated in his famous book Bowling Alone, diversity isn’t just a weakness, but a form of social cohesion suicide. As Pat Buchanan wrote in 2007
“After 30,000 interviews, Putnam concludes and reports, against his own progressive convictions, that ethnic and racial diversity can be devastating to communities and destructive of community values.
“The greater the diversity the greater the distrust, says Putnam. In racially and ethnically mixed communities, not only do people not trust strangers, they do not even trust their own kind. They withdraw into themselves, they support community activity less, they vote less.
“People living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down,’ that is, to pull in like a turtle,” writes Putnam.
They tend to “withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more but have less faith they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.”
Writes columnist John Leo, “Putnam adds a crushing footnote: His findings ‘may underestimate the real effect of diversity on social withdrawal.’”
It’s a shame that Putnam hasn’t looked at Trick or Treating as the ultimate embodiment of whether or not a neighborhood is safe or not; of whether or not a city is one that young parents should invest in purchasing a house. Having the trust in your neighbors that you can safely send your children out into the night to procure treats with minimal danger is a way to qualify the true value of your home and a way to gauge the type of relationships they will be able to make.
Your real estate agent can’t divulge any racial information and demographics on your neighbors, but if you want to buy a new home then you should just watch how Halloween unfolds in the town you are considering moving into. This is a great way to test Putnam’s findings on diversity.
Recently, the local Fox affiliate out of Milwaukee reported that city has the “dubious honor of being the most segregated in America.” Mind you, this is the same city where in August scores of black people pulled white people from their cars and beat them at the Wisconsin State Fair. It’s also one of the more dangerous cities with high levels of black crime, showing that the so-called “dubious honor” is more aptly titled “common sense residential patterns for safe living.”
Hilariously, resident Black Journalism Agitator of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Eugene Kane [Email him] wrote a column bemoaning the lack of Trick or Treating opportunities for black children in majority black neighborhoods (wait, wasn’t it diverse cities that lack social connections? Shouldn’t a homogenous black neighborhood be safe? Doesn’t that run counter to Putnam’s findings?):
“For some, the only real trick about Halloween is trying to keep it a treat for young children in bad neighborhoods.
This time of year in Milwaukee, I always think about thousands of kids who live in less-than-perfect areas of the city where drug dealing, gangbanging and handgun violence are common events.
In these neighborhoods, dressing up as a ghost or fireman and going house to house in search of candy isn’t really feasible.