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Reactions to a 'Racist'

Editor's Note: In one of those weirdly symbiotic media phenomena nurtured by the blogosphere, a front-page article in The Gabber, a Southern Pinellas weekly, has led to a string of thoughtful, impassioned comments on Creative Loafing's blog, blurbex.com.

"I Had a Dream" by Gabber reporter Cathy Salustri first appeared as a post on Salustri's personal blog, "Just Keep Swimming." In the post, Salustri makes a disarming confession: "I'm a white woman living in a black neighborhood, and I'm turning into a racist because of it." She goes on to describe the petty thefts, drug-dealing and bad behavior that have plagued her since moving into the Bartlett Park area of Midtown St. Pete just under two years ago. CL staffer Alex Pickett, who wrote our April 18 cover story about tensions and gentrification in Bartlett Park, linked to Salustri's post on blurbex.com, and noted on the blog last week that The Gabber had printed her piece on their front page. His post launched the back-and-forth conversation excerpted here.

Only a few of the comments are included, and the excerpts are meant only to suggest the general tenor of the exchange. You can read the complete text at blurbex.com ("Gabber Reporter: 'I Am A Racist,'" May 12).

From Tom Tito [president of the Bartlett Park Neighborhood Association]: Cathy had the misfortune to live on a block with an extremely high level of drug traffic...If she had given the neighborhood more time she would have found a large number of black residents who are the best neighbors you could ever meet.

From Michael: Hey Cathy, I understand why people have said your post is courageous. We like to think of racists as truck drivin, rebel flagging waving TV show stereotypes but ... How many arty, progressive, urban pioneer types harbor these same thoughts but keep them to themselves or find euphemisms to hide the essentially racist nature of their thoughts and beliefs.

From Leilani [CL Events Editor Leilani Polk]: Cathy, I think you're confusing poverty with skin color.

From Cathy Salustri: Leilani, I'm poor, too. I live in that neighborhood. It doesn't justify anything ... Being poor or poor parenting or alcoholism or whatever is not an excuse. At some point you must stop being a victim of your upbringing.

From Keith: Ah yes, the old "boot strap" gambit. The last refuge of the flailing moderate. ... I think you should move. I hope people stop trying to convince you to stay. I prefer a straight up racist over someone who inflicts the same pain while trying to make me feel sorry for her.

From Ms. Understanding: Keith and those that preach that same old tired rhetoric are every bit as racist as a Klansman.

From Cathy Salustri: Keith, I may not feel how you wish I felt, but here's what should scare the hell out of you, because it sure as hell scares me: I have had many people tell me they felt the same way, and those sentiments bother me far more than yours and Leilani's.

AND THE WINNERS ARE ...

The results are in, and we can now announce the winners of Creative Loafing's Less-Is-More Swimsuit Contest (Summer Guide, May 9). Over 100 readers took part in the process, selflessly accepting our invitation to examine photos of 14 beautiful people in minimal clothing, decide who among them had the hottest bod on the beach, then cast their votes. Despite some last-minute surges from runners-up, the winners were clear: Lisa Massingill for the women and T.J. Drechsel for the men. They will each receive gift certificates from our Eats, Bites and Unwinds programs, Creative Loafing T-shirts and a drink on us at The Undertow Beach Bar in St. Pete Beach, where we discovered them. Also, voter Rina Solanki of Tampa — chosen at random from all ballots submitted — will win the same package. Thanks to everybody who participated, particularly those of you who were willing to let perfect strangers photograph you on the beach (particularly perfect strangers from Creative Loafing).

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