Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Undercurrent of Negativity about Durham

Undercurrent, my tush. Surveys document that more than half of the people living in communities on either side of Durham report, from what people say, they would expect a negative experience in Durham. And hundreds of millions of dollars in high-profile community improvement projects haven't made a dent in this "torrent" of negative word of mouth.

The reason isn't always what we would think. Crime or sense of safety come into play but way down the list. At the top one year were verbatim responses like "too many Muslims on the streets," "too many African-Americans on the streets."

This year the highest median ratings were given to things like "Class," "Intolerance," "Ignorance," "Rivalry," "Envy."

Same ole, same ole junk that has always been the swords for bigots, racist and sexist stereotypes, even genocide.

Durham could ignore it but for half of the people working in Durham commuting from these areas. Here it can contaminate visitors and newcomers.

It's a communication problem. Even back to back to back multimillion dollar civic projects with tons of buzz haven't made a dent in negative word of mouth. Like politics, negative word of mouth is "personal" not "logical."

Whenever this junk appears in print, it is collected in a list called "Tudes." This month a Raleigh writer couldn't resist taking shots at Durham, thinly veiled as humor but hardly the "equal opportunity" offenders he was parroting. After softly chastising the Museum of Art there for telling him to keep his paws off some art, he took a shot at Durham by writing "it's not like we want to leave them in Downtown Durham overnight." And under the next heading, during a segue to news on Durham, he began "Speaking of dead people and Durham...."

People can preach regionalism all they want, even when it's used to cloak self-interest. But until we eliminate this cancer and restore mutual respect, it's a hollow argument.

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