Sunday, January 15, 2012

Classism and Residential Segregation

Whether a city is a metropolitan center or a suburb; whether it is in the North or South; whether the Negro population is large or small—in every case, white and Negro households are highly segregated from each other.  
- from Residential Segregation and Neighborhood Change
Homes in a lower class neighborhood
The neighborhood in which I lived most of my teen years is in a state of...varied development to say the least. I suppose the neighborhood could be described as the “hood” or the "projects" or the “ghetto.” Either way, it is marked by poverty. Slowly but surely the groups of once-inhabited old homes are being torn down and new ones are being built or being replaced by huge apartment communities. It is a wonderful thing to see, but who exactly are these homes and apartment communities being built for? They do not look like anything the people in my neighborhood could afford to buy or rent.

To the east of the neighborhood, the city erected the new $480 million Amway Arena less than 15 minutes away. The only thing separating the arena from the rest of the neighborhood is a two-lane street (literally). I wonder how long it will be before the homes on the other side of the street are vacated and demolished to make way for more attractive venues. A couple of clothing stores, perhaps? Maybe some nice restaurants (Thai please!)?

Classism, the Not So New Form of Discrimination

I understand that you work in the grassroots, nonprofit sector but what money can be made there? What good is your degree going to do you when you are out there? Your degree will mean nothing if you don’t’ have the proper job to back the degree Danni.  
- from a conversation with a friend who currently graduated from Law School
After dealing with racism and sexism most of my life, classism had truly been put on the back burner. It was not until I attended a HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) that the issue once again reared its ugly head. I had to wrap my mind around this particular form of discrimination. It was after all painfully evident that some of us came from money (students) and others of didn’t. Some students had the luxury of not worrying about having to survive on a Ramen noodle diet. Others discovered exactly what constituted a staple food diet. As I fulfilled a full time course load (as well as held down a job...and participated in a work study program) my mind began to consider what role classism played in my adult life as well as how classism was affecting the African American community.

Then I got into a rather interesting conversation with a fellow classmate at his newly purchased home (purchased by his parents) before one of his infamous parties. Some of his words still stick with me almost three years later: “I don’t deal with low class people, because everything about them is just that, low class. I mean can a person even appreciate the finer things in life if they haven’t had them? Can they truly enjoy it? No, right? Ya feel me? My parents are high class and high maintenance, so I know how to appreciate the finer things.” (That awkward moment...) I politely looked at him and pondered his foolish words and politely told him that he could take his bourgeois Negro self and jump in front of a semi-truck on I-95.