On multiple continents in multiple bars, people have asked me what it’s like growing up in Santa Barbara. I tell them about the ocean, and the mountains, and then throw in some humor: It’s a town of over-educated rich white people who sit on committees and lament that nobody is helping the poor.
Well, thankfully we live in a country where stereotypes can be amusing. But there is a disconnect between the affluents (typically with lighter skin) and the non-affluents (typically with darker skin), and they don’t know each other well enough to understand how to approach issues like gang violence.
I play basketball at the Santa Barbara West Clubhouse of the United Boys and Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara. Two week ago, in the surrounding neighborhood, I saw three dudes jump another guy. And after that week’s basketball game (where we won, convincingly) I talked to a Mexican-born childhood buddy who grew up on the Eastside. “Most of these kids grow up hard, with single parents,” he said. “They get sucked into drugs, gangs, and other things because they have no structure or family. Too bad the Boys and Girls Club got so run down. It shows nobody cares. Doing something positive, like playing basketball here, and taking pride in it would mean everything to them.”
Renovating the Westside Boys and Girls Club is a concrete action that would provide a positive outlet for hundreds of under-advantaged kids in Santa Barbara.
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This story was amended on March 1, 2013, to reflect that fact that the letter-writer meant to refer to the Westside club, and that the violence he witnessed took place not at the club but in the surrounding neighborhood.