Don't Judge Neighborhood

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Not all of us are fortunate enough to live in neighborhoods free of crime and drugs. Some of us are from places where drugs are sold on playgrounds or church parking lots.

Many of those who grew up in places like that choose to stay, instead of fleeing to a safer suburb. Many are law-abiding citizens who feel a sense of responsibility to set good examples for youth and try to clean up their neighborhoods from the inside.

Unfortunately for them, the bad reputations of communities like the Calloway Street area of East Galax known — disparagingly by some, affectionaly by others — as "The Hill" unfairly taint those who have nothing to do with the illegal activities that go on there.

Following recent arrests stemming from a DEA and drug taskforce investigation into a cocaine-dealing operation in the Calloway area, users of The Gazette's online readers' forum were quick to name others who they claimed were dealers.

Others pointed out just as quickly that the names being irresponsibly tossed around belonged to families who have inhabited East Galax's predominantly African-American neighborhoods for decades. It's ignorant to assume that every member of those families would be involved in criminal activities — and those who aren't involved shouldn't be judged based on those who are.

For every drug dealer in those neighborhoods, there's a civic-minded and dedicated activist for social change.

For every crackhead, there's a straight-A student determined not to fall victim to her surroundings.

For every household from which drugs are dealt is a home full of devout, loving people.

Neighborhoods like Calloway Street belong to the people who are positive forces in the community, not to the dealers who have taken them over. Instead of condemning, we should try to help those residents take back their neighborhood from the criminals who are giving it — and them — a bad name.