Scarborough haters: Do you even live here?

In a variation on the Lion King meme, Mufasa says to his son, “Look Simba. Everything the light touches is Toronto.”

“Wow,” says Simba. “But what about that shadowy place?”

“That is Scarborough,” Mufasa says. “You must never go there.”

Scarborough: the misunderstood district to the east. With nicknames like Scarberia and Scarlem denouncing the distance and supposed crime rate of the place, it’s no wonder such a negative reputation of the area has been perpetuated. If the stereotypes are to be believed, the east end is a roiling mass of women with bad attitudes, young men roaming the streets looking for trouble, and bitter residents who dream of the day they can live west of Victoria Park Avenue. But is this reputation really fair?

In 2007, city councillors Norm Kelly and Michael Thompson requested that the media not mention “Scarborough” in crime reports. Instead they proposed a protocol for reporters to only reference the intersection where the crime was committed. The tendency among media outlets was to headline the crime as happening “in Scarborough” even though Scarborough is quite a large place. “If there is a shooting at Jane and Finch, it is at Jane and Finch,” Kelly said. “If there is a shooting at Neilson and Finch, it is in Scarborough”. The proposal didn’t go through, but Kelly and Thompson brought up a good point: there is a particular interest in portraying Scarborough as more dangerous than it is.

Interestingly enough, the loudest people on the supposed dangers of Scarborough are very often people who don’t live in Scarborough. Granted, Scarborough residents enjoy expounding on the supposedly shady reputation of the area for giggles. For instance:

“Have you heard about the recent thefts in the area?” says Person 1. “I used to be able to leave my things unattended but now . . .”

“Oh ha ha,” says Person 2. “I’m from Scarborough so I’m used to it. I always take my things with me. It’s ingrained.”

End scene.

As with any area, there are things to complain about, like the tricky buses or the funky smell at Midland station. Yet if you’ve never lived here, worked here, or had any experience with the area outside of an experimental trip to Scarborough Town Centre, why are you talking?

To put it best, allow me to shamelessly modify author Kathryn Stockett’s words about Mississippi:

“Scarborough is like my mother. I am allowed to complain about her all I want, but God help the person who raises an ill word about her around me, unless she is their mother too.”

Originally published in Pro Tem, March 4, 2015

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