The Black Youth Project reported that a bus tour in New York City called Real Bronx Tours was apparently offering its patrons the opportunity to see what what a “real ghetto” looks like. They ride through the Bronx, a New York borough that is heavily populated with poor people of color, making fun of residents and wowing their audience with stories about how dangerous the neighborhood is.
This is obviously problematic in more ways than one. On the surface level, it doesn’t seem to be a service worth its money. According to someone on the tour:
“At one point during the tour, Battaglia [the tour guide] allegedly told the tourists in front of pantry line, ‘I don’t know what that line’s about, but every Wednesday we see it,’ Battaglia told the tourists. ‘We see them go in with empty carts, and we see them come out with carts full.’”
It’s obvious that they have little to no knowledge about the areas that you are guiding people on a tour of if 1. They aren’t able to identify a food pantry that they pass every week and 2. They aren’t able to conclude that a building that has people entering without food leaving with carts full of it is a food pantry. I’m just not sure how qualified they are for this job.
And then there’s the fact that they are exploiting poor communities for a profit, all the while perpetuating a pathology of poor. According to the patron, Battaglia also made comments about St. Mary’s Park being the right neighborhood to be in if someone wanted to die. These comments not only brazenly display the inherent class privilege of Battaglia and the tour bus patrons, but also shows a blatant disregard for the matrix of oppression that creates places like the Bronx.
In my opinion, an effective tour of the area would talk about the racist, capitalist systems that leave places like the Bronx poor and dangerous (for the actual residents more so than someone cruising by on a tour bus). But it would also draw attention to the community spirit, the history and lasting influence of hip hop, and readily identify spaces like the local food pantry for its service to the community.