Our city of paradox

Sep. 26, 2013 @ 06:55 PM

There it was on the front page of The Herald-Sun Thursday, yet another indicator that Durham is a very cool place.

Google – the company that has become so synonymous with Internet coolness that its name is a verb – has given a shout-out to our entrepreneurial, creative-class image.

And, there it was on the front page of The Herald-Sun Thursday, yet another example of a problem that erodes our image like heavy rain on a treeless hillside.

For the 14th year, the Durham Chapter of the Mothers of Murdered Children held a vigil to remember murder victims. Not just any murder victims in this case but victims whose life was cut short almost before they began, lives snuffed out by violence while still in childhood.

It was a sobering reminder of the paradox that plagues Durham. We are a city on the rise, a City of Medicine, a city of higher education and knowledge workers, where the young want to come make their mark in a booming economy, the old want to come and retire surrounded by a rich mix of amenities and foodies of every age want to come and celebrate cuisine ranging from fine to funky.

But we are a city that struggles with too much crime, too much random violence, too many scores being settled with gunfire – and too much poverty that, when it’s not helping to nurture a turn toward crime it is even more insidiously destroying spirits, hopes and dreams – and lives.

As if to add an exclamation point, two other stories on that same front page framed the same paradox.

Purdue Pharma Manufacturing formally confirmed Wednesday it is building a $59 million production facility in Treyburn Corporate Park. Its 100 jobs will add to our surging bioscience sector, another example of our riding the wave of 21st-century economic drivers.

But on the same day, N. C. Central University police identified the victim fatally shot on Monday night. Tracy Daquan Bost of Charlotte – being pursued as a robbery suspect by Durham police – became yet another young man whose life, already caught up in crime, ended abruptly and far too soon.

Durham, we know, suffers in some nearby quarters from an exaggerated and hyped vision of its violence. Most people in Durham go through their daily lives untouched by crime or violence. We are right to recoil when we are portrayed as some kind of battle zone where only the unwary or unwise would visit – or buy a home. That’s just not true.

But that doesn’t mean that we should not take seriously the fact we have far too much crime and that parts of our community suffer far too greatly from it.

There was some irony in that even amid the grief and sorrow of the vigil for murdered children, Durham garnered yet another accolade.

Parents of Murdered Children’s Durham chapter received the Dorothy Lobes Award for its public awareness achievements and programs of assistance to survivors.

We should be proud of the award, and of how it reflects our gritty determination to confront our problems, not to hide from them.

 But we will be even prouder when we no longer have reason to compete for that award.