I’m seeing lately that communities of color are buying into suburban ideals that are actually hurting rather than helping the community. This article in the Atlantic Cities talks about how this has happened in some Asian communities in California and I’ve seen it firsthand in the Black community here in North Carolina. (Latino readers, I’m not going to speak for you here since I have no evidence, but I don’t doubt it happening there too).
What disturbed me the most about that article is that people were leaving the city because of bad schools and crime. It makes me ask, attends these schools and who committs those crimes? If these are our neighbors, are we giving up on our own people? I know race is arbitrary, but culture is not, nor is neighborliness.
I do understand the embarrassment, real safety risks involved in staying in certain neighborhoods, especially as a member of non-white group or even as a white person who’s been unfairly targeted for ridicule or persecution. I understand the feeling of entitlement once one has come upon a better social class and standing to move somewhere where the class is well known and celebrated. I know that it speaks to victory over ones oppressors to move on sometimes.
Yet, when will we take responsibility for what’s in our neighborhoods and stop running away when problems start? Are we sometimes holding the very same attitude as our oppressors?
Suburbia, in many cases, was built for purposes of isolation. I do understand that folks like nature and that’s well and good. However, the proliferation of gated communities (for average, non-celebrity Americans), zoning restrictions that assume malefeasance out of its citizenry, and even charter schools are doing more hurt than harm.
We have to realize that we have to take the good with the bad. If the man on the corner calling out crazy stuff is physically harming you, then yes, please report him to the authorities. That kid that’s bullying your child may actually be the victim. We actually need to question our children more, especially when they claim they are not learning or being bullied. Are we sure THEY aren’t mistreating fellow classmates or cheating on tests? If the problem is inside the four walls of your home, moving to a different place will not change it. In fact, you may find youself to be the new nuisance in your new neighborhood
I also understand wanting a more rural setting. But if you want that, consider an actual rural setting. Or, be mindful of other ways you can be environmentally friendly, such as growing food in your yard, carpooling, or lobbying for better, more connected infrastructure in your new neighborhood.
Please folks, stop this whole running away to the suburbs because of the Other. Look hard in the mirror and make sure the Other isn’t yourself. Stop hating yourself. The time is up for racializing our neighborhoods and this kind of “grass is greener” thinking.
Photo credit: flickr user Derek Bridges.