Rose Hill Course on the Bronx: A Good Step


The gates surrounding Rose Hill send a message about the Bronx. (PHOTO BY PAOLA JOAQUIN ROSSO/THE OBSERVER)


A course at Rose Hill has been proposed and accepted; one that aims to discuss the cultural and historical significance of the Bronx as a region of New York, and fortunately for us, doing so is a step in the right direction toward a greater understanding of the world we actually live in.

Every community carries an implicit promise of protection, of shelter. This is what makes it appealing, and what makes its residents feel safe at home. But when you surround such a place with large, black iron bars, there is another implicit connotation: that just as the world inside the bars is safe, the world outside is dangerous and warrants a response of fear.

Indeed, as Fordham University consistently pelts us with security alert after security alert detailing various muggings, thefts and even some physical altercations involving members of our own community who have dared to step foot beyond the bars of the Rose Hill campus, it is very easy to characterize the Bronx as a seedy place of crime.

But we have to remember: with any major city, there will always be a risk every time you step outside your front door. It’s a fact of life, and ultimately at the end of the day common sense should be the one to prevail. It should go without saying that meandering the streets of the Bronx alone during the early hours of the morning between midnight and 6 whilst blatantly showing an ipod or iphone in usage, is akin to painting a target on your shirt. But even so, the mere existence of crime in a city or borough of a city should never be used as an argument against the location’s value. To put things in perspective, London, one of the most culturally rich cities in the entire European continent, is frequently combatting its image as a city of thieves. Any student of Fordham who was fortunate enough to attend one or more study abroad programs in the UK, myself included, will be aware of the extensive talks given to the participants educating them about the numerous tactics and tricks utilized by scammers and pickpockets that have plagued many an unfortunate tourist in the years past. According to the London Police Service, there have been 8,903 reported thefts in the year 2014–nearly a 1,000 report difference compared to the reports for the previous year of 2013. Does this therefore mean that students need to be corralled in such a way that they may emerge only for necessary classes but spend the rest of the time fearing the city of London?

To apply this mentality to the Bronx would be doing it a gross disservice. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 American Community Survey, the Bronx was ranked as one of the 10 largest and most diverse cities in the United States. Upon closer examination, it isn’t difficult to see why: the Bronx currently boasts a population of nearly 1.4 million residents. Of that total, 53 percent identify as Hispanic or Latino and another 36 percent identify as Black or African American. Of those percentages, the countries of origin include Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, virtually every country in Central America, Mexico and Puerto Rico, just to name a few, and this is without even mentioning the West Indian and Albanian populations that have been steadily growing.

Given these statistics, it is very clear that the Bronx is or has become a cultural epicenter of sorts for New York, but such a thing cannot be appreciated if the black iron wall is not breached and if students have no interest in shattering a veil of ignorance that engulfs their very surroundings.

Certainly, such a thing is difficult; fear is often the most powerful enemy of motivation, and the recent bias incidents, as well as the buzz surrounding them, has only amplified this fear. Not too long ago we saw an unfortunate incident where a freshman student of color returned to his dorm to find a racial slur carved into his door. Imagine yourself in his position, braving the already daunting task of leaving home and coming to college for the first time only to be greeted with a symbol implying that your new environment wants nothing but to fervently reject you. Why would the world beyond the gates, beyond the simultaneous symbol of exclusion and protection, be any better?

It therefore falls upon our university to take an active hand in the interest of its students and alleviate this fear. This proposed course has been a long time coming. The syllabus as it currently exists aims to shatter any misconceptions regarding immigration’s effect on the crime rate on the Bronx and focus on, among other things, how various styles of literature and music were born in and defined the Bronx. This kind of education should be standard in Fordham’s curriculum, as it is definitely a step in the right direction toward promoting understanding between students and the various cultures that surround them, and hopefully even tolerance as well.