DNAinfo on Wednesday reported on a photo project that documents bits of trash all over Bed-Stuy deemed odd by the photographer, an ethnographer and UX researcher named Alexandra Larger. Larger, who is white, told DNAinfo that she was mystified by the number of single rubber gloves and chicken bones she sees littered all over her neighborhood.
“But I don’t see these items in neighborhoods with different demographics like Clinton Hill or Fort Greene. I don’t see them in Brooklyn Heights or even Williamsburg.”
By “different demographics,” Alexandra Larger clearly means people who are not poor and black.
Bed-Stuy, though gentrifying, is still a majority African-American neighborhood. The median income is low. There are a lot of fried chicken restaurants in the neighborhood, because fried chicken is cheap and delicious.
She’s trying to approach this project as an ethnographer, studying the culture of Bed-Stuy. Sadly, a popular stereotype about black people is that they love fried chicken, so there’s no way her faux observation doesn’t sound racist:
“I think there is a race and class issue at the heart of it, in terms of the way the city of New York prioritizes which communities get better treatment in terms of trash pick up,” Larger said.
She said her goal is to bring awareness to the overlooked problems in the area that affect the neighborhood’s quality of life.
“This is a big issue and there’s an environmental message as well,” she added. “There’s a kind of line of segregation in terms of trash and where it exists.”
All parts of New York City are covered in trash at all times. It’s not an overlooked problem or a problem unique to Bed-Stuy. Alexandra Larger is not going to bring awareness to a problem that everyone already knows about. If anything, the real issue illustrated here is that Bed-Stuy is a food desert where healthy food is not easily accessible. If Alexandra Larger was being honest with herself, she would admit that she just thinks it’s funny that there are chicken bones all over the place, because it’s novel to her. It would have been better if she kept this observation to herself. I am comfortable assuming that Alexandra Larger is not from Bed-Stuy; for the record, I am also white and live in Bed-Stuy and am not from there.
The rubber glove thing is admittedly weird.
(Photo: Alexandra Larger)