As we pass another Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and as I prepare to launch something to help us tell stories better, a small, but necessary rant.
Yes, I’m a card-carrying new urbanist. I love pretty buildings, bike lanes, fancy hipster crafts, and restaurants. Yet, I’m still a black American young woman, who is tenuously in the middle-class. I am straight. I have the means to serve as an advocate, to make trips, to speak out, to write this blog. I can read and write and cook and see and feel and touch and hear and taste.
But privilege or no privilege, there are still people out here suffering. And some of our principles in urbanism and planning aren’t reaching them the way they need to, to empower them to speak with their own voices and to be content with what they have and to create wealth in the way they see fit.
If you’re not familiar with Dr. Mindy Fullilove’s research on both Root Shock and her solutions to fixing it, along with Tom Hanchett’s book that speaks about what happens to those who are displaced, go here.
Now that you’re back and informed, let’s continue.
As much as I hate to hear that even my work on this blog and now in real life with bike/walk justice and equity, as well as other major environmental justice mechanisms, may not be enough, I still speak out with both hope and prophetic fire.
It disappoints me that in my hometown, my city is willing to continue to give up easy access to social services that repair people’s lives for more restaurants that I might go to once because I can, but not go back to again because the food might not be good and in all honesty, I’m giving money to a company that repeatedly creates blight by not completely renting out shopping centers that it owns in certain neighborhoods.
I’m already not a fan of my new city, from its past indiscretions in helping model and create the housing segregation that mutated into being both a class and race problem. (Fixer-uppers are fun, if you know good contractors and have the money to do it) No sooner did I get back in town from a month-long East Coast holiday visit (hey privilege!), I read on our neighborhood news site that the company that I currently rent with wants to tear down places that aren’t so blighted and in the regular paper about black leadership that also thinks tearing down without a clear path to building up is the answer.
I’m willing to let you fact check me on all the issues I’ve listed above, but note I have included articles so you can read about all the plans above yourself and make your judgements. Still, I can tell you this, from a morning when I started writing this post awake way too early and having trouble breathing because I have no central HVAC and no windows that open. I have some options, but they’ll all increase my rent and cause other conveniences. (I know, privilege again. What about the folks who have no options at all?).
So as much as I believe we can do better than this, and that transportation, then better housing will lead the way, I also need to be prophetic and corrective and call out BS when I see it.
We’ve done ourselves a disservice as a developed world by making housing and food commodities. Granted, we would trade some convenience if we didn’t have restaurants and apartment buildings and public transit, but we also don’t need to go to the far extreme of everything healthy and happy being prohibitively expensive.
Let us not forget Flint and Detroit. Or the DC Metrorail’s decline. This could be any of us because we all have some service or regulation in our city that we cut back on and many of our cities will still give big companies and developers incentives.
Again, I’ve written so much on mutual respect, trust and love. Let’s start with that and let’s work together so that we have a community and not a marketplace masquerading as such.