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Monday, April 2, 2012

The Gated Communities of Florida

Just got back from vacation in Florida with the in laws in their gated community. Maybe a hundred miles from where Trayvon Martin was gunned down. You have to go across a moat and past a guardhouse to get into the enclave of pink and orange bungalows. Buford Pusser in a white hillbilly hat with a gut hanging over a gun belt smiles and checks my ID. You vistin? Yep. The in laws. He makes a call and I wait in the warm Florida night that seems so quiet, so peaceful. Alright, he says giving me a pass. Go on. I nod to Buford and drive into the unreal world.

There is no crime here in theory. There is a large cement wall painted light pink that goes around the entire complex. There is a gas station and a car wash and a community center with a pool. You just need groceries from the outside world and these can be delivered. You exist in a world built on a swamp drained into large retention ponds. You exist in a world that has no blacks or Mexicans except the ones who keep the chemicals on the grass. Just palm trees and warm tropical breezes.

And I go jogging in the morning. There is no one out except for the few who are taking walks, biking, jogging. We all move about in total safety because the real world is outside the tall pink walls. There is wildlife on the other side and you can hear strange animals calling out, yelps, whistles, then sirens from those other strange animals. But inside your world of gates and walls and Buford Pussers all his Greatest Generation Americana.

And you can see how it happens. A black male in a hoodie would not make it far in this gated community. I have gotten a few looks myself just taking walks at night. There is a norm and if the norm is violated then you are suspect. Now add a dude with a gun looking for anything out of the ordinary. Hot night. A gun. Gated community. Black male. Hoodie.

Books by William Hazelgrove