Hey Sheepshead Bay, Are We Racist?

A forum contributor over at City-Data.com is considering moving to the area, but as a black man he says he’s heard some things:

I was thinking about moving to a place in Sheepshead Bay but I’ve been told that as a black person I might have some issues in the area and that I might feel uncomfortable. Does anyone know how welcome blacks are in that part of Brooklyn?

My immediate thoughts? No way. In the 25 years I’ve been here I’ve never noticed any explicit forms of racism towards the area’s blacks. I’ve never seen anyone chased down the streets, I’ve never heard the n-word slip maliciously off the lips of my neighbors, and I’ve never seen anyone turned away from a business. But then, I remembered, I’m white. So I began to consider the possibility that it’s there, and I’m just not privy to it.

Forum readers tended to agree with me, though. They touted the demographics of Sheepshead Bay High School (65 percent black) as key evidence for open-minded neighbors. One black commenter pointed out that he’d rather live here than Bensonhurst of Howard Beach. Another black reader reassured him, saying he’s lived and worked here for years without problem.

Some posters, though, gave a totally different answer. No, they didn’t say we were racist against blacks. They said we’re racist with Russians and Eastern Europeans. One commenter, who may have been huffing something, estimated the area was 98 percent Russian. Another said it was 50/50 – but I think even that’s high. Others pointed out that this area is far more diverse than that, with significant populations of Asians, Latinos, Indians/Pakistanis, and other groups. Diversity notwithstanding, one reader argued that there was a significant anti-Russian vibe in Sheepshead Bay:

The comments and negative attitudes I HAVE witnessed, however, are directed towards the Russian and Ukrainian immigrants who make up an increasing percentage of the population. Native-born Brooklynites here have a lot of disdain for Eastern European immigrants.

No one contradicted him. And quite honestly, given some of the comments on my own site, I’m not about to either. So what is it, Sheepshead Bay? Are we racist? And if so, how do we begin confronting those issues?

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