Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Not Welcome Here

It’s even more apparent in cities with long histories of segregation. It seems strange to white families, but even as black families start accelerating up the income ladder, even when they can most definitely afford that “dream home,” so many actually prefer to live “with their own.” Segregation becomes a “choice,” if you consider not living where you are not really welcome to be a choice, that endures decade after decade.
"The choices that black families make today are inevitably constrained by a legacy of racism that prevented their ancestors from buying quality housing and then passing down wealth that might have allowed today’s generation to move into more stable communities. And even when black households try to cross color boundaries, they are not always met with open arms: Studies have shown [e.g., a September 2009 report - Does Race Matter in Neighborhood Preferences? – from the government’s National Institutes of Health] that white people prefer to live in communities where there are fewer black people, regardless of their income.
“The result: Nationally, black and white families of similar incomes still live in separate worlds… In many of America’s largest metropolitan areas, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, black families making $100,000 or more are more likely to live in poorer neighborhoods than even white households making less than $25,000. This is particularly true in areas with a long history of residential segregation, like metropolitan Milwaukee.” New York Times, August 20th.
Looking at families making at least $100,000, according to socialexplorer.com, across the United States, 37% of black families live in poor neighborhoods while 22% have moved up to affluent communities. According to the site: “Poor areas have a per capita income 20 percent lower than the regional average. Affluent areas are 20 percent above.” For whites, a meagre 9% live in poor areas, while 47% better-off whites choose to live in affluent neighborhoods.
When you drill down into a particularly segregated city, like Milwaukee, the numbers skew to even greater extremes. 59% of those better-off black Milwaukee families stay in those poor communities and only 17% venture into generally affluent neighborhoods. Only 6% of whites choose poor neighborhoods; 57% of such whites head for affluent areas.
As African-Americans headed north in the 1960s, seeking jobs, they were greeted with a level of hostility that has to shame us all. Real estate brokers routinely refused to show black families homes in white neighborhoods; they were steered to areas where “blacks lived.” But the economy that had lured blacks from the South began to crumble. “Within a few years, Milwaukee’s economy would start tanking. Tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs in the city were eliminated. Property values fell, while housing policies made it nearly impossible for black families to obtain loans and move to the suburbs, where many jobs were being relocated.
“That same pattern of redlining, in which banks choke off lending to minorities and minority communities, has shaped New York, Chicago and other cities, but the impact in Milwaukee proved especially severe, in part because black migrants began arriving in droves just as the economic structure that was supposed to buoy them was disappearing. The shifts ensured that no enclave for affluent black people was ever developed here.
“Black residents and leaders tried to fight back. In 1962, Vel Phillips, the city’s first black alderwoman, proposed a fair housing ordinance. Her colleagues voted unanimously against it four times in the 1960s.
“Activists took to the streets in the summer of 1967 for 200 consecutive days of fair housing protests, and were sometimes greeted with racial slurs, eggs and rocks as they crossed the Menomonee River, via the 16th Street Viaduct, into the white South Side.
“The Common Council eventually ratified a fair housing law in 1968, weeks after the federal government passed its landmark measure [the Fair Housing Act of 1968]… The racial dividing lines were already drawn, however, and barriers to black upward mobility remained. Even the neighborhood where the baseball slugger Hank Aaron moved in the late 1950s could not avoid a downward spiral. While the black population in the Rufus King area grew from 0.4 percent in 1960 to 89 percent in 1980, its median home value dropped from 9 percent above the city’s median to 23 percent below it, according to ‘Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods,’ a book by John Gurda.
“Those historic dynamics of race and housing have not disappeared, either. As recently as 2006, a city government report found that affluent, nonwhite Milwaukeeans were 2.7 times likelier to be denied home loans than white people with similar incomes.
“Many black people here still view the suburbs as hostile toward them. Just six years ago, the New Berlin mayor’s initial support for an affordable housing project in the nearly 93 percent white suburb was met with threats, including a sign in his yard that read, nigger lover.’” New York Times.
We have an African-American president. We also know that neither segregation nor racism has disappeared. We are aware now that police are much more likely to stop a black driver than a white one, to hassle black over white… regardless of whether the officer is black or white. Those biases are so deeply embedded in our culture, our psyche – notions like seeing a black teenaged boy and assuming he is a criminal waiting to perpetrate – that they simply do not fade. What we have today is a vicious and convincing combination of statistics and videos that underline our abysmal racial record. We have transparency like never before… and we have strong resistance against changing the unfairness, unfairness called “racism.”
When pockets of black citizens began a “Black Lives Matter” movement, one that exploded in the minority communities across the land, we got a litany of “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” – which they indeed do – but the undertone was a rather complete failure by those who uttered those reactive phrases to understand the uniqueness of the threats that African-Americans face every day… that whites never see. A rejection of a victimized minority seeking justice for themselves and their communities. We seem to have generated a rather polarized reaction to racism: many are shocked while others have absolutely no desire to change a damned thing. Walk a mile in another man’s shoes, and see what it is really like.
I’m Peter Dekom, and for those who will not take steps to insure equal protection under the law to all Americans – a fundamental tenet of not only our constitution but of our essence of being Americans – they have to understand how completely unpatriotic and un-American they really are.

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