I’ve lived in majority White neighborhoods most of my life. I’ve also lived through the drama of early desegregation, beginning with the 1960s. Back then the drama was chiefly about Black and White Americans. However, it now includes other immigrant and refugee populations. Especially those without financial security or steady jobs with decent wages and health benefits.
Despite the dreams and goodwill of many US citizens, things don’t seem to have changed that much. Especially in our cities. But also, increasingly, in the suburbs. Not in the shopping malls, but in our neighborhoods. It’s good to attend a church that’s visibly open to all comers. But even this doesn’t take the place of neighborhoods.
It’s simple. If I don’t have daily contact in my neighborhood with people who don’t look or act like I do, I won’t get very far on my own. I know this, because I now have Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Jewish neighbors. Plus other White Protestant neighbors. I have no Black neighbors.
My attitudes and behaviors are important. Nonetheless, I can’t solve this alone. This a national problem and disgrace, especially given decades-old legislation against discriminatory practices in the housing industry. The problem began early in this nation’s history, and has only become more deeply entrenched as we’ve made ‘progress’ toward what I would call semi-integration (sometimes takes good pictures, but it isn’t real).
Here’s a fact I heard this weekend on a reputable radio station. With the exception of President Obama, none of our recent Presidents took housing discrimination on as the monster it is. In addition, Mr. Trump has further weakened these efforts with his choice of staff, his tweets, his attitudes, and his macho White Supremacy approach to governing.
In other words, we have great legislation and ineffective or nonexistent follow-through. Neighborhoods don’t happen on maps; they happen in hearts and everyday lives. On streets, porches and sidewalks. In back yards and corner grocery stores. We need to rub elbows with each other. Share the news; help with the snow shoveling; watch the kids from time to time. Talk about the weather and then maybe about something more important than that.
Over the weekend I heard an interview that gave me a starting point. A place and way to begin writing about this. So here’s the deal for today. I bring you a quote. That’s all. It gives me a chill every time I read it.
The Anglo Saxon planted civilization on this continent and wherever this race has been in conflict with another race, it has asserted its supremacy and either conquered or exterminated the foe. This great race has carried the Bible in one hand and the sword [in the other]. Resist our march of progress and civilization and we will wipe you off the face of the earth.
Major William A. Guthrie, 28 Oct 1898, in Goldsboro, NC, speaking to a crowd of 8,000 at what was called “A White Supremacy Convention.” From Raleigh News and Observer, 29 Oct 1898. Quotation excerpted from Wikipedia article on The Wilmington (NC) Insurrection of 1989.
Nuanced for the year 2018, versions of this quote are still filling the airwaves and social media. The question is how to combat this assault on our common humanity and on our increasingly isolated neighborhoods.
©Elouise Renich Fraser, 23 April 2018
Photo found at whqr.org