Monday is never an easy day. But there’s something special about a Monday morning when you get to come and write: “Neighbors Ignore Screams As NYC Woman is Stabbed to Death.” On one hand, at least I’m not responsible for the post headline: “Neighbors Ignore Cries of Slain Gal” (Gal? GAL? She’s been stabbed 12 times and dies and she’s a slain gal? It’s like, the Post couldn’t think of witty headline so they tried to use a cutsy term. Nice job, Post. But I digress.) On the other hand, as a Beyond the Headlines writer, I am responsible for giving this story some kind of greater meaning.
So, of course, to put this story in perspective, we’ve got to talk about Slain Sixties Gal (I know, I could work for the Post!) Kitty Genovese. Kitty was also stabbed to death in Queens, (March 13, 1964) and in her case, she was attacked 3 times and not one of 38 neighbors who witnessed the event helped her out. In the case of the woman this weekend, neighbors shiftily explained that they thought she was drunk, and didn’t want to bother getting help. In the Genovese case, neighbors were more honest, essentially saying, “it’s not my problem.”
When Kitty Genovese died, there was outrage and horror among the American public. If you took Psych 101 in college, you learned about Genovese Syndrome (also known as Bystander Apathy.) But my guess is that much like Ebony Garcia’s neighbors, very few people will react strongly to her death. I don’t think that this time around, people are going to think it’s all that bad. The moral is kind of: Ignore a dying person once, and it’s shocking, but ignore another dying person, and it becomes the norm.
I’m not sure how how the world has changed (I don’t want to say nastier, harsher, more cynical, more selfish, though I’m tempted) but I think it has. For example, one of Kitty Genovese’s friends made a statement accusing neighbors of letting Kitty die. But Garcia’s cousin seemed to still be begging for understanding, talking about how Ebony really was a nice, smart girl and had just gotten herself in a bad situation. In other words, they were taken the judgments made against Garcia for granted.
Let’s be honest here. The neighbors were thinking, that girl has gotten herself into trouble and is screwed up. Just because she’s made mistakes and put herself in danger doesn’t mean I should, too. Maybe there’s even a sense of satisfaction: that girl is getting what she deserves. And instead of saying, “let’s show a little charity and benovolence,” Garcia’s family is saying: no, really she didn’t deserve this.
Once, maybe in 1964, we took it for granted that we’d help one another. And if we didn’t, it was a shock. But, now, the world is a little more cutthroat, and everyone seems a bit more entitled to look after their own interests.