Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Call to End Ghettos

When visiting my brother in Dallas a few years ago, he told me a story of how he found an article from a local paper dating about 30 years ago. He said the article spoke of the anger of the citizens of a small area of the city because a black family had been permitted to move into the area. This was kind of funny, he stated, because now the area was a run-down almost entirely black community. How did this happen, and in such a short time? And, also, it seems that this little section of Dallas is not the only place where this has occurred. How do these little towns of affluence change so quickly?
It seems that a lot of this had to do with the time period around which the article my brother mentioned was written. As integration became more and more a required thing rather than suggested in United States living, the areas in which these men and women were living were strongly affected by it. However, although the laws might have forced to change, the refusal to accept these changes could not be changed by any amount of laws or ordinances. And so the whites moved out, taking whatever wealth and power they had with them, and leaving struggling black families in the white men and women’s place. As time has proven, people with wealth are attracted to living situations with people of similar wealth; and people with no wealth have little choice in where they live. Because struggling does not equal wealth and wealth is one of the driving ingredients in creating a community, as the wealthy men and women left the area, the poor and those with nowhere else to go replaced the wealthy, creating a small ghetto of underprivileged men and women, similar to that small area that the article my brother read referred to.
This movement that created and still creates these sections of cities is a major problem in our society, creating invisible walls in cities that should be united. Even in Baltimore, there are clear examples of this separation, the east and west side of York Road and the small areas of varying wealth within Baltimore (Govans, Canton, etc.) being clear examples. There have been many efforts made, either by the government (section eight housing, Department of Housing and Urban Development, etc.) as well as by the cities themselves (mixed economic living areas with different priced homes to fit different people into the same community). And I would hope that these initiatives, although now somewhat unsupported and in need of stronger leadership and less bureaucracy, will become forces that create blended communities and put an end to the wealth-evacuation of mixed towns. If the wealthy would only stay in their area, it could create an environment not based on wealth or power, but based on humanity. The invisible walls would begin to fall, creating a true city of strong relationships built on our individual characteristics, not on traits that we sometimes have no control over.