As a current resident of Hawthorne, who is beginning to understand the ins-and-outs and general goings on in the city where I live, surveying the neighborhood in order to observe both what can be seen, heard and experienced on its streets as well as the social forces that make these experiences possible allowed me to acquire a better understanding of the area than I might have had had I simply lived there, going about my business. By walking around the neighborhood and taking notes on what I saw, I learned about the inner-workings of Hawthorne, simply through what I observed in my immediate surroundings.
1. What is the class level of the neighborhood?
To begin, I would describe Hawthorne as a middle-class area, based on the sizes and conditions of the homes lining the streets, the models of cars in their driveways, and the styles in which the people that I saw on the street were dressed, all of which I will describe individually. The majority of the homes in Hawthorne are single-family (as far as I could tell), low-density homes, and usually single-story, with green, cared for front yards and well-kept exteriors. The majority of these homes have their own driveways leading into dedicated garages, and some even had side-yards that led into backyards, some of which were occupied by mobile homes and recreational vehicles, which ranged from clean and well-kept to older and dilapidated. Many of these homes had cars parked in their driveways, perhaps suggesting that either the garage was already full of cars or other belongings, with these cars mainly being relatively newer model, economical gas savers, although some driveways were occupied by luxury cars such as Mercedes and BMWs. Because of this, the image of the typical home in Hawthorne coincides perfectly with the idea of the normal American middle-class house, as the houses and vehicles were not always the most luxurious, but they were usually well-kept and obviously cared for. This extends to the residents of the neighborhood that I observed, with the majority of the adults dressed as if they were on the way or coming back from some type of job, and the young adults looking like typical young adults, dressed in recent styles. Hawthorne is home to a relatively small population of homeless people, as well, but they mainly keep to themselves, an indicator that the neighborhood, as with most middle class areas, is usually safe, even for those who may just be passing by.
2. Is this an ethnically homogenous or heterogenous neighborhood?
As far as the demographics of the neighborhood, Hawthorne is a fairly diverse area, as it is home to people of a great variety of races and backgrounds. From what I could see, the majority of residents are Hispanic/Latino, but there are also large numbers of African-Americans, and some Asian and Middle Eastern residents. During my survey of the neighborhood, I observed people gathering in public spaces, such as the parks, which are always full of children and families enjoying their days (another sign as to Hawthorne’s middle-class demographic), and heard mostly Spanish and English being spoken, which is consistent with the range of ethnicities present in Hawthorne, as people gathered in groups that mainly consisted of either only or mostly people of their own race, suggesting that there are thriving communities of different racial groups (mostly Hispanic/Latino and Africa-American) within the neighborhood, possibly at the expense of a larger sense of community between the groups. However, Hawthorne appears to be an area that attracts people of all races and backgrounds, as they live the typical “American dream” in an accepting, middle-class neighborhood.
3. Is this a “safe” neighborhood?
Based on my experiences in and my survey of the area, I would certainly describe Hawthorne as a “safe” neighborhood, as during the day it is heavily populated by people outdoors, either walking their dogs, enjoying the local parks, or in the case of the neighborhood’s younger residents, riding their bikes and skateboards on the sidewalks and streets, which are in relatively good condition, many with small plots of grass lining their curbs. Some homes sport “beware of dog” or security company signs on their front doors and fences, but these are relatively few and far between, suggesting that the residents of Hawthorne have the same idea of their neighborhood as I do, that it is a safe place to live, furthered by the fact that many of these same residents feel confident enough to park their luxury vehicles in their driveways, through the day and night. This feeling of safety is most likely provided by the neighborhood’s police presence, as one is always aware that the police and emergency services are nearby, whether through hearing there sirens or seeing one of their vehicles, although not in the sense that the police are always needed to deal with crime, but more that they are present if they are needed, and are obviously keeping the area safe.
4. Is this neighborhood in transition?
Because of these reasons, I would argue that Hawthorne is not an area that is currently in transition, as it appears to already possess its own, concrete identity, that is of a typical, noticeably clean and safe middle-class area, with citizens who belong not only to the community as a whole, but to their own diverse communities, which are also well established. It appears as if Hawthorne is an area that will remain constant throughout the coming years, as it attracts a certain type of resident, who can afford to live the average middle-class life, with all of the associations that come with it, and this type of person can come from anywhere. If anything, and if the recent remodeling of Hawthorne Blvd. is any indicator, the city will only continue to better itself within its current economic situation, as its residents continue to ensure that their community is a safe, clean place to live, where people of diverse backgrounds can come to participate in the middle-class lifestyle that many dream of.